News

Programmed to Fold: RNA Origami

08-20-14

Paul Rothemund, Senior Research Associate in Bioengineering, Computer Science, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA. "RNA origami is still in its infancy," says Rothemund. "Nevertheless, I believe that RNA origami, because of their potential to be manufactured by cells, and because of the extra functionality possible with RNA, will have at least as big an impact as DNA origami." [Caltech Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Paul Rothemund

Building Artificial Cells Will Be a Noisy Business

02-24-14

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, explains, "I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. When I program my computer, I can think entirely in terms of deterministic processes. But when I try to engineer what is essentially a program at the molecular scale, I have to think in terms of probabilities and stochastic (random) processes. This is inherently more difficult, but I like challenges. And if we are ever to succeed in creating artificial cells, these are the sorts of problems we need to address." [Caltech Release]

Tags: research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree

Brainlike Computers, Learning From Experience

01-06-14

A recent New York Times' Science article about a new computing approach based on the nervous system mentions Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus. The new processors used in this approach consist of electronic components that can be connected by wires that mimic biological synapses. Because they are based on large groups of neuron-like elements, they are known as neuromorphic processors, a term credited to Carver Mead, who pioneered the concept in the late 1980s. [New York Times Article] [ENGenious Article about Carver Mead]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Carver Mead

Molecular Programming Research Wins A Second $10 Million Award

09-17-13

Professor Erik Winfree and colleagues have won a second $10 million award for research in molecular programming. "Computer science gave us this idea that many tasks can actually be done with different types of devices," Winfree says. For example, a 19th-century cash register and a 21st-century computer can both be used to calculate sums, though they perform the same task very differently. At first glance, writing a computer program and programming a DNA molecule may seem like very different endeavors, but "each one provides a systematic way of implementing automated behaviors, and they are both based on similar principles of information technology," Winfree says. This Expeditions in Computing Award will be used to take their work in molecular programming to the next level: from proof-of-principle demonstrations to putting the technology in the hands of users in biology, chemistry, physics, and materials science. [Caltech Release]

Tags: honors health CMS Erik Winfree

Robust Self-Replication

05-25-12

Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Caltech alumnae Rebecca Schulman, have created a new system to copy sequence information. In their approach, tiny DNA tile crystals consisting of many copies of a piece of information are first grown, then broken into a few pieces by mechanically-induced scission, or force. The new crystal bits contain all the information needed to keep copying the sequence. Each piece then begins to replicate its information and grow until broken apart again—without the help of enzymes, an essential ingredient in biological sequence replication. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Rebecca Schulman

DNA Robotics Research Earns Undergrads a Gold Prize

11-21-11

Undergraduate students Zibo Chen, Shayan Doroudi, Yae Lim Lee, Gregory Izatt, and Sarah Wittman have won a gold award at the 2011 International Bio-Molecular Design Competition (BIOMOD). BIOMOD is a competition for undergraduate teams who design research to address the control of biomolecules on the nanometer scale. The Caltech team's challenge was to make a synthetic DNA robot that has the ability to take a random walk —instead of walking on set path or track—on a two-dimensional origami surface that was also made out of DNA. The team is mentored by Professor Erik Winfree and sponsored by the Molecular Programming Project. [Caltech Feature] [Video of Project]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Zibo Chen Shayan Doroudi Yae Lim Lee Gregory Izatt Sarah Wittman

Cell-phone Medical Devices

08-08-11

Mani Chandy, Simon Ramo Professor and Professor of Computer Science; Deputy Chair for Education, and Julian J. Bunn, Principal Computational Scientist at CACR, are working with a group of Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) in CMS, EE, and MCE to building a collection of medical devices that can be connected to a cell phone. "We want to exploit cell-phone technology and the Internet to provide inexpensive health-care tests for the poor in remote rural villages," says Chandy. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: EE research highlights health MCE CMS Kanianthra Chandy Julian Bunn SURF

First Artificial Neural Network Created Out of DNA

07-21-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering; Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering; and Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, are the first to have made an artificial neural network out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights Jehoshua Bruck health CMS Erik Winfree Lulu Qian

Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules

06-02-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, and colleagues including Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip."We're trying to borrow the ideas that have had huge success in the electronic world, such as abstract representations of computing operations, programming languages, and compilers, and apply them to the biomolecular world," says Dr. Qian. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Lulu Qian

Scientists Create New Process to "Program" Cancer Cell Death

09-10-10

Niles A. Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied & Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and colleagues have engineered a fundamentally new approach to killing cancer cells. The process uses small RNA molecules that can be programmed to attack only specific cancer cells; then, by changing shape, those molecules cause the cancer cells to self-destruct. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights health CMS Niles Pierce