March 28, 2008, 9:24 AM — Researchers in Japan have demonstrated one part of an envisaged molecular level
system that might one day enable cell phones to keep a regular watch on their
NTT DoCoMo hopes some future cell phones will contain "DNA chips,"
devices capable of analyzing molecules from the user's body, to provide a warning
about a possible virus, high-levels of stress or other factors that might affect
But for the DNA chips to get the samples required, the molecules to be analysed
must be transported into the phone from the user's body. This is where the latest
research in so-called "molecular communications" comes in.
The work carried out by NTT DoCoMo and researchers at The University of Tokyo
proved the feasibility of transporting a specific molecule between two set points
using chemically-engineered motor proteins, said Shuichiro Ichikoshi, a spokesman
for NTT DoCoMo in Tokyo.
Motor proteins are typically found in muscles and nerve cells and in the research
they were depositied on a glass substrate in the chip to create paths to the
DNA-chip. When a molecule arrives via the user's sweat the motor proteins transport
it to the sensors for analysis.
The entire process requires no electrical or mechanical input or control so
can work on its own.
The development is just one piece of the research required before such a system
can be commercialized. NTT DoCoMo's Ichikoshi expects the entire system to be
feasible in a laboratory about five years from now and not ready for commercial
use for perhaps another five years after that.
NTT DoCoMo, which is more usually concerned with transporting of digital data
across its cellular network, has been working on molecular communications for
some time and previous research involved a program with the University of California.