MICROSOFT HAS made the dramatic boast that it believes it will 'solve' cancer in the next decade.
The company's UK-based Microsoft Labs has built a 'biological computation' unit which it aims to turn into a 'living' computer akin to the 'nanobots' in science fiction series such as Red Dwarf and Doctor Who and films such as Inner Space.
These biological computers will be able to 'reprogram' rogue cells into healthy ones. That's the plan, anyway.
The idea is that the itty-bitty battle bots will be programmed to access all that we already know about cancer research and turn it into a treatment.
In the short term, the early iterations of such machines will be able to identify the best courses of treatment for patients, and suggest new ones.
"The field of biology and the field of computation might seem like chalk and cheese," Chris Bishop, head of Microsoft Research’s Cambridge HQ, explained to Fast Company.
"But the complex processes that happen in cells have some similarity to those that happen in a standard desktop computer."
Andrew Philips, head of Microsoft's biological computation group, even told The Telegraph that he's optimistic that molecular disease detection will be possible within the next five years.
"You can think of computing as being a sequence of instructions like a recipe. In a biological setting you have a chemical soup," he said, explaining the sheer complexity of the task Microsoft Labs has set itself.
The reason that all this seems possible is that Microsoft is treating cells like computer viruses. By approaching the problem of cells in the same way as glitches in an operating system, new approaches can be found that it is hoped can be applied to carbon as they are to silicon.
Whether this boast of 10 years is realistic is debatable, but it's fascinating to see Microsoft using its powers of evil for good. µ
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