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Biotech Medicine

Programming Molecules To Let Chemicals Make Decisions 28

Nerval's Lobster writes "Computer scientists at Harvard University have come up with a way to convert algorithms that teach machines to learn into a form that would allow artificial intelligence to be programmed into complex chemical reactions. The ultimate result could be smart drugs programmed to react differently depending on which of several probable situations they might encounter – without the need to use nano-scale electronics to carry the instructions. 'This kind of chemical-based AI will be necessary for constructing therapies that sense and adapt to their environment,' according to Ryan P. Adams, assistant professor of computer science at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), who co-wrote the paper explaining the technique (PDF). 'The hope is to eventually have drugs that can specialize themselves to your personal chemistry and can diagnose or treat a range of pathologies.' The techniques are part of a larger effort to program the behavior of molecules in manufacturing, decision-making and diagnostics, using both nano-scale electronics and the still-relatively-new study of bionanotechnology."
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Programming Molecules To Let Chemicals Make Decisions

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  • Sounds like the first step to creating Orson Scott Card's "descadola" virus []. When reality imitates fiction....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 14, 2013 @04:59PM (#45690949)

    Come on. Men have been letting testosterone make decisions for them since the dawn of mankind.

  • Lots of stuff could go right as well, but it is a question worth asking.
  • a super-smart kryptonian white cell? :) lets' just make sure we stay under a yellow sun! :)
  • If I understand that correctly, it can work like a selection expression from XPath, aspect languages or graph search terms to match on the right "locations" in a lifeform body or any other complicated mixture, like soil.

    • That eas my take from the paper - although this still seems very theoretical. The DNA computation implementation example isn't very useful because DNA is too unstable and too involved with regular biology to be used like that.

      The problem here is they're srill missing all the components to let you build something: you need a couple of molecules which can bind to useful cell receptors, change their state and unbind. Or you need a message carrier to bind to them and do the same. Then you need a whole family of

  • Awesome - I can't wait until the script kiddies get hold of this and use it hack people and create armies of zombies.

    /me gets his shotgun and baseball bat and heads for the roof.

  • Logic gates vs. AI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Saturday December 14, 2013 @06:11PM (#45691321)

    Rather than talking about these molecules in terms of Artificial Intelligence I think it would be more accurate to say that the molecules instead have some very rudimentary if-then logic designed into them. At this stage it doesn't sound *that* much more advanced than a reagent that turns blue in substance A and green in substance B.

  • Wait, use chemical reactions on the scale of femtometers to avoid using electronics on the scale of nanometers? Got it.
  • by methano ( 519830 )
    I am an organic chemist. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I do know a little bit about making molecules and their chances of doing useful things in the body. I've been doing this for 35 years and I have some credentials though I'm not a Harvard professor. My opinion is that this article is pure, extremely well crafted, bullshit. Throwing in all that math only makes it more so.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      (I'm being entirely 100% serious here, not derogatory in any way.) Could you please expand a little bit on that, for those of us that aren't in the field? This is one of the reasons I read Slashdot--to get the opinions of people way smarter than me.

  • We already have chemicals making decisions. There are chemicals storing the program (DNA), chemicals reading the program (ribosomes), and chemicals executing the program (enzymes). The systems running on such molecular logic are usually called "organisms".

  • Oh well, I'm sure chemicals that make independent decisions about how to affect your body can't possibly go wrong in any way. I could really go for some brains right now.

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