In a step toward molecular storage systems that could hold vast amounts of data in tiny spaces, Brown University researchers have shown it’s possible to store image files in solutions of common biological small molecules.
DNA molecules are well known as carriers of huge amounts of biological information, and there is growing interest in using DNA in engineered data storage devices that can hold vastly more data than our current hard drives. But new research shows that DNA isn’t the only game in town when it comes to molecular data storage.
A study led by Brown University researchers shows that it’s possible to store and retrieve data stored in artificial metabolomes — arrays of liquid mixtures containing sugars, amino acids and other types of small molecules. For a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers showed that they could encode kilobyte-scale image files into metabolite solutions and read the information back out again.
“This is a proof-of-concept that we hope makes people think about using wider ranges of molecules to store information,” said 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.”
Another potential advantage, Rosenstein says, stems from the fact that many metabolites can react with each other to form new compounds. That creates the potential for molecular systems that not only store data, but also manipulate it — performing computations within metabolite mixtures.
The idea behind molecular computing grows out of an increasing need for more data storage capacity. By 2040, the world will have produced as much as 3 septillion (that’s 3 followed by 24 zeros) bits of data by some estimates. Storing, searching and processing all of that data is a daunting challenge, and there simply may not be enough chip-grade silicon on Earth to do this with traditional semiconductor chips. Funded by a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA), a group of engineers and chemists at Brown has been working on a variety of techniques for using small molecules to create new information systems.
For this new study, the group wanted to see if artificial metabolomes could be a data-storage option. In biology, a metabolome is the full array of molecules an organism uses to regulate its metabolism.
“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,” said 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.”
The researchers assembled their own artificial metabolomes — small liquid mixtures with different combinations of molecules. The presence or absence of a particular metabolite in a mixture encodes one bit of digital data, a zero or a one. The number of molecule types in the artificial metabolome determines the number of bits each mixture can hold. For this study, the researchers created libraries of six and 12 metabolites, meaning each mixture could encode either six or 12 bits. Thousands of mixtures are then arrayed on small metal plates in the form of nanoliter-sized droplets. The contents and arrangement of the droplets, precisely placed by a liquid-handling robot, encodes the desired data.
The plates are then dried, leaving tiny spots of metabolite molecules, each holding digital information. The data can then be read out using a mass spectrometer, which can identify the metabolites present at each spot on the plate and decode the data.
The researchers used the technique to successfully encode and retrieve a variety of image files of sizes up to 2 kilobytes. That’s not big compared to the capacity of modern storage systems, but it’s a solid proof-of-concept, the researchers say. And there’s plenty of potential for scaling up. The number of bits in a mixture increases with the number of metabolites in an artificial metabolome, and there are thousands of known metabolites available for use.
There are some limitations, the researchers point out. For example, many metabolites chemically interact with each other when placed in the same solution, and that could result in errors or loss of data. But that’s a bug that could ultimately become a feature. It may be possible to harness those reactions to manipulate data — performing in-solution computations.
“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.
“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.”
The Latest on: Molecular data storage
via Google News
The Latest on: Molecular data storage
- DNA Could Be One of a Million Possible Genetic Moleculeson November 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm
The researchers uncovered the rich variety of possible data storage molecules using a program called MOLGEN 5.0. They started by defining what a nucleic acid-like component should be made from, ...
- Photosynthesis seen in a new light by rapid X-ray pulseson November 11, 2019 at 10:46 am
Advances in unraveling the secrets of photosynthesis promise to improve agriculture and aid in the development of next-generation solar energy storage systems that combine ... take several hours to ...
- Proteomic analysis of eleven tissues in the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)on November 11, 2019 at 2:18 am
Liver-enriched proteins were mainly associated with detoxification, metabolism and glycogen storage, functions that are consistent ... that are differentially regulated between tissues. Our data, as ...
- Molecular Assemblies Announces $12.2M Funding For Advanced Data Storageon October 4, 2019 at 3:10 am
Hence, it is considered one of the most efficient data storage solutions for commercial entities, government agencies, and others. The Molecular Assemblies had raised its first funding way back in ...
- Molecular Assemblies Announces $12.2 M Series A Financing to Advance Enzymatic DNA Synthesis for Life Sciences and Data Storageon October 1, 2019 at 2:24 am
Molecular Assemblies' enzymatic approach is designed to reliably, affordably, and sustainably produce long, high quality DNA, optimized for life science and data storage applications. "Enzymatic DNA ...
- San Diego’s Molecular Assemblies raises $12.2 millionon October 1, 2019 at 2:02 am
Molecular Assemblies uses enzymes to assemble DNA sequences, which the company says can produce longer DNA sequences in one step than chemical synthesis. As a natural data storage system, DNA takes ...
- The Marvel Of Molecular Computing Chipson September 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm
and other biomolecules with the speed and economics required for a complete and useful data storage and retrieval system is becoming a need of the time. Acknowledging this emerging reality, Risk Group ...
- Major leap towards data storage at the molecular levelon August 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm
The research provides proof-of-concept that such technologies could be achievable in the near future. The potential for molecular data storage is huge. To put it into a consumer context, molecular ...
via Bing News