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A new biological sensor detects and analyses DNA sequences
19 October 2010
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
The Universidad Politécnica de Madrid's Artificial Intelligence Group (LIA), based at the Facultad de Informática, has created a new DNA-based biological sensor that has potential applications in the field of genetic diagnostics. The basic sensor design was presented at the 2010 Conference on Unconventional Computation.
The LIA group has submitted a patent application for the design of this logical DNA sensor. These sensors are able to represent logical implications (or IF-THEN rules), like, for example, IF symptom 1 and symptom 2 are present, THEN the disease is A, or IF the disease is B, THEN symptoms 2 and 3 must be present. The sensors are able to use these logical rules to autonomously run logical inference processes on the genetic input signals and reach accurate diagnoses.
Using these intelligent DNA sensors as basic building blocks, the aim is to develop in vitro systems capable of autonomously detecting a set of input symptoms and output a diagnosis or release the right drug.
These biological sensors (built with DNA to process DNA) are considered bionanotechnological devices and are part of a discipline called DNA computing or biomolecular computing. This discipline aims to build and program devices manufactured with biomolecules, such as, for example, DNA strands to process information likewise encoded in other biomolecules.
In short, there is a need to develop and manufacture biological sensors capable of precisely detecting complex combinations of genetic signals and autonomously issuing the respective diagnoses. The bionanotechnological devices developed by the UPM's LIA group at the Facultad de Informática are a response to this need.