Biocomputing with cells (Membrane Computing)


What: Perform computations with cells; show that anything that can be done in a silicon computer can be done also with bio-matter. Symport/antiport systems have been heavily investigated; the seminal paper has been chosen by Thomson ISI as a fast breaking research front and received more than 300 citations.

Simulated reaction Why: While evolutionary computing and neural networks are biologically inspired and implemented on the usual silicon computer -- e.g., genetic algorithms and economic applications -- membrane computing has a still more ambitious goal, that of using a bio-ware for carrying-out computations. The need for such a novel means for implementing computations, a ``wet computer'', comes from the inherent limitations of silicon computers, related to their sequential architecture and difficulties in miniaturization. Because of the continuous miniaturization we have all witnessed in recent years, the quantum barrier is close, and therefore, packing more and more processors on the same chip raises serious technical problems - for instance, related to control, communication, and energy dissipation. This could increase the cost of smaller processors by several orders of magnitude making the silicon-based computers no longer commercially viable.
A possible solution to this foreseen limitation of silicon processors, and even a possible way to supplement the classic computer, at least for certain problems, is suggested in Biology. The cell, the building-block of organisms, is an immensely complicated system which is highly adaptive with an unbelievable degree of self-configuration and self-maintenance.