JUL 08, 2019 6:34 AM PDT

Molecular Thumb Drives: Storing Images in Molecules

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

DNA molecules are the very essence of biological data and have long baffled scientists for its potentiality in utilizing it for engineered data storage devices. However, a research study led by Brown University may prove that DNA is not the only known molecular data storage.

Learn more about DNA data-storage:

The study examined the storage and retrieval of data in an array of liquid mixtures composed of small molecules known as artificial metabolomes—which was uniquely assembled by the researchers.

“This is a proof-of-concept that we hope makes people think about using wider ranges of molecules to store information,” stated Jacob Rosenstein, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and senior author of the study. “In some situations, small molecules like the ones we used here can have even greater information density than DNA.” Specifically, the study wanted to tests if artificial metabolomes could be a data storage option—more like a molecular thumb drive.

Brown University: The approach maps the ones the zeros of digital data to the presence or absence of particular molecules in solutions. The researchers used the scheme to encode image files in solutions. (Image Credit: BrownUniversity.edu)

“It’s not hard to recognize that cells and organisms use small molecules to transmit information, but it can be harder to generalize and quantify,” says Eamonn Kennedy, a postdoctoral associate at Brown and first author of the study. “We wanted to demonstrate how a metabolome can encode precise digital information.”

Findings of the study were published in PLOS ONE and described the encoding of kilobyte-scale image files into metabolite solutions. The study points to a future where storing data in molecular systems may not be the only advantage but also the ability to compute within metabolite mixtures.

“Using molecules for computation is a tremendous opportunity, and we are only starting to figure out how to take advantage of it,” said Brenda Rubenstein, a Brown assistant professor of chemistry and co-author of the study.

Brown University: The research saved this image of a cat into metabolite solutions. (Image Credit: BrownUniversity.edu)

“Research like this challenges what people see as being possible in molecular data systems,” Rosenstein said. “DNA is not the only molecule that can be used to store and process information. It’s exciting to recognize that there are other possibilities out there with great potential.”

Source: Brown University

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
JUL 09, 2020
Technology
How Chatbots Can Help the Medical Community
JUL 09, 2020
How Chatbots Can Help the Medical Community
It is no secret that COVID-19 pandemic has touched our lives in so many ways. For health care providers, the burden has ...
JUL 24, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Profiling Technology Provides Rapid Drug Discovery
JUL 24, 2020
Profiling Technology Provides Rapid Drug Discovery
Rapid drug discovery saves lives and new technology is aiming to do just that in the fight against tuberculosis. Learn m ...
AUG 16, 2020
Technology
An Online Calculator Can Predict Your Stroke Risk
AUG 16, 2020
An Online Calculator Can Predict Your Stroke Risk
Clinicians can make an educated prediction on a patient's risk to a stroke based on the severity of their metabolic ...
SEP 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
SEP 03, 2020
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
Last week, TerraPower, a Bill Gates-backed nuclear startup, announced its latest project - a collaboration with GE Hitac ...
OCT 24, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Software Flags Elevated Cerebral Palsy Risk in Premies
OCT 24, 2020
Software Flags Elevated Cerebral Palsy Risk in Premies
Diagnostic imaging scientists have developed a software tool for predicting the future onset of cerebral palsy in babies ...
OCT 08, 2020
Technology
Computational Tools Reveal Differences Between C3 and C4 Plants
OCT 08, 2020
Computational Tools Reveal Differences Between C3 and C4 Plants
The COVID-19 pandemic has made life hard for a lot of researchers. For one, they could not be physically in the lab and ...
Loading Comments...