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 is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
You May Also Like
APR 22, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
New Method To Fast Track Drug Development
APR 22, 2021
New Method To Fast Track Drug Development
The time it takes to respond to disease outbreaks is critical. But designing drugs to combat these disease outbreaks is ...
MAY 20, 2021
Technology
Brain Imaging May Predict Pediatric Response to Anxiety Medication: Study
MAY 20, 2021
Brain Imaging May Predict Pediatric Response to Anxiety Medication: Study
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 4.4 million children ages 3 to 17 have been diagnosed w ...
MAY 25, 2021
Technology
Telehealth May Be Here To Stay, But Economic Challenges Could Cause Access Issues
MAY 25, 2021
Telehealth May Be Here To Stay, But Economic Challenges Could Cause Access Issues
The widespread use of telehealth, or the use of technology to facilitate an “appointment” with a doctor, bec ...
JUN 28, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Ultra-Thin Spinal Implants Could Treat Severe Pain
JUN 28, 2021
Ultra-Thin Spinal Implants Could Treat Severe Pain
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have built a minimally invasive, ultra-thin, inflatable spinal cord stimula ...
JUL 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
JUL 19, 2021
Hubble Space Telescope Back from the Brink; In Working Condition after Hardware Swap
After a month-long hiatus from its routine scientific operations, 31-year-old Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is back in wo ...
AUG 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Free Tool Uses AI to Predict Protein Structures
AUG 02, 2021
Free Tool Uses AI to Predict Protein Structures
To understand cellular processes, scientists have to study proteins, which play critical roles in virtually every aspect ...
Loading Comments...