U.S. researchers have created 'living computers' by genetically altering bacteria, a finding that opens the door for improving various applications such as data storage and genetic engineering, Science Daily reports. Researchers from the biology and mathematics departments of Davidson College in North Carolina and Missouri Western State University in Missouri added genes to Escherichia coli bacteria, creating bacterial computers able to solve a classic mathematical puzzle, known as the burnt pancake problem. Science Daily explains the problem, which in brief involves stacking pancakes that are burnt on one side so the largest pancake is on the bottom and all pancakes are golden side up in the fewest number of flips. In this experiment, the researchers used fragments of DNA as the pancakes and added genes from a different type of bacterium to enable the E. coli to flip the DNA 'pancakes'. Lead researcher, Karmella Haynes notes that "a single flask can hold billions of bacteria, each of which could potentially contain several copies of the DNA used for computing. These 'bacterial computers' could act in parallel with each other, meaning that solutions could potentially be reached quicker than with conventional computers, using less space and at a lower cost." According to Science Daily, bacterial computing, in addition to parallelism, "also has the potential to utilize repair mechanisms and, of course, can evolve after repeated use" (Science Daily, 5/20/08).