DNA 'computers' could lead to self-activated smart pills

DNA is capable of monitoring the nearby environment and judging when to release chemicals.


Imagine a pill that knew if you were ill enough to need drugs, and wouldn't release chemicals if it thought you didn't need it. That's the breakthrough that's been made at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands by a team of researchers ld by Maarten Merkx. The team has harnessed the power of DNA itself to form an organic computer that performs crude calculations on the state of your health.

When you get ill, or suffer from a chronic condition, doctors normally prescribe drugs to help you get better, but this is based on a set of generic guidelines. The idea is that a smart pill will be able to offer specific doses, tailored to your needs, reducing the risk of side effects and waste.

The computation comes in the form of the DNA, which looks for molecules that it can react with as a form of data-gathering. Put simply, the pill will journey inside your body and sniff the local environment to decide if you need more medicine. Of course, like so many things at the bleeding edge of technology, it's still early days for this form of treatment, but the potential is exciting.