back to article Boffins build neural networks fashioned out of DNA molecules

Scientists have built neural networks from DNA molecules that can recognise handwritten numbers, a common task in deep learning, according to a paper published in Nature on Wednesday. It’s pretty easy for traditional convolutional neural networks. Now, scientists are testing wackier models on the MNIST database of training …

  1. Scott Broukell

    So if we had only involved a group of roundworms in the brexit negotiations things would be far less complex and it would probably all be over by now!

    1. Jared Vanderbilt

      Nah, Russians can manipulate roundworms too.

  2. Tom 7

    It's l!E3 Jim but not as we know it

    I have enough mutant text translations thank you very much.

  3. Chris G

    What is this leading up to?

    A slow biological computer like this is inevitably going to come up with an answer of 42!

  4. Sir Runcible Spoon

    Dury was right

    There ain't half been some clever bastards!

  5. &rew

    This sounds like fiction

    It is at times like this that I realise we live in a truly amazing time.

    Cheers, science!

  6. hplasm

    It's ALIVE!!


  7. Francis Boyle

    So this means I'll be able to hack my own body

    So an instant high every time I see the word wombat.

    A lot of drug dealers are not going to like it.

    1. d3vy

      Re: So this means I'll be able to hack my own body

      I already get that... But then I *really* love wombats.

  8. tony72

    That's nothing

    I built a neural network out of NDA molecules ... but I'm afraid I can't talk about it.

  9. Pete4000uk


    Something else Star Trek got right, bioneral circuitry.

    Just keep cheese away from it

  10. onefang

    I built an entire brain out of DNA about six decades ago, it runs much faster than that, and is capable of doing much more than just recognising hand writing. It still can't read my doctors hand writing though.

    I'd get my coat, but my DNA brain forgot where we put it.

    1. MonkeyCee

      Taking credit

      "I built an entire brain out of DNA about six decades ago"

      Typical. Someone taking credit for a woman's work. Bet you didn't even use half of those lovely neurons your mum made for you :D

      1. onefang

        Re: Taking credit

        My mum was responsible for half of the design, and passing me the building materials, I did the actual building myself. Though that only covered the first nine months of construction, there's been some modifications since then.

  11. scrubber


    “Humans each have over 80 billion neurons in the brain, with which they make highly sophisticated decisions."

    Like whether it's time to go to the pub to try to reduce that number.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Decisions

      “Humans each have over 80 billion neurons in the brain, with which they make highly sophisticated decisions."

      Like watching Love Island..

  12. Mark 85

    Brains! We need brains!

    So using roundworms is a start. When they upgrade to manager brains things might get a bit scary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      1. Grikath

        yeah... Last time I checked, a roundworm is at least an order of magnitude more intelligent than your average manager.

  13. ecofeco Silver badge

    Oh hell

    And here we go...

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    This is "well, the implementation is very clever, but what's it good for?" science grants.

    It's "computation" in the theoretic, Computer Science definition of the term.

    Basically it maps the "image" (by hand) into a piece of DNA.

    Run it next to a bunch of other pieces of DNA

    Filter it with a process that deactivates less matching DNA and leaves the more matching DNA active.

    In principle it could run a very (1000s, millions?) of class classification test in the same time it runs a few. So I guess you could brute force the Traveling Salesman problem (maybe), by enumerating every variation of short paths, then combining every variation of every variation of those short paths to get every variation of the entire full network path, then run them all through selection.

    But TBH I think the DNA/RNA/Ribosome is already Turing complete, given it can read a "tape" (the DNA), write a tape (I'm pretty sure ribosomes can be made to generate new DNA strands) and carry out actions based on the contents of that tape.

    Carnegie Mellow were working on chemistry based logic gates (with IBM funding) decades ago, using dyes for signal I/O. It never seemed to occur to anyone that what was really needed was molecular sized electron injection and extraction. Photons are 100s of times bigger than most molecules.

  15. AndrueC Silver badge

    I for one, ...

    ... am a bit creeped out.

  16. fobobob

    Seeing the image at the top of the article brought to mind the notion... genetic lottery.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of...

    James Follet's "Trojan"

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    I foresee a new entry on the excuse calendar

    "The dog ate the neural network"

    Sorry, I'll get me coat

  19. JDX Gold badge

    Orson Scott Card

    I'm sure one of the later Ender books (Children of the Mind?) features an alien civilisation who communicate by sending digitally encoded DNA sequences, which the receivers are supposed to 'read' by incorporating them into their own DNA.

    Tangent, but that's what this reminded me of.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worms Armageddon

    What will we do when the roundworms become self aware and decide to wipe out humanity?

    On a serious note - quite clever to get pattern recognition this way. Establishing a neural network this way is quite a leap in the current technology.

  21. Flywheel

    The Moth DNA option is fundamentally flawed

    Every time someone switches the lights on the results will be drastically skewed as the moth brains lurch towards the light..

    It might be good for political decisions though

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like