Researchers at Brown University have found a way to store and retrieve data stored in artificial metaboloms – solutions containing metabolic products.
DNA molecules are well known as carriers of a huge amount of biological information, so scientists are interested in using these compounds as data storage devices. According to some studies, the recording density of information in DNA is much higher than on existing hard drives. But a new study shows that DNA is not the only molecule that can store such amounts of information.
In a new article published in the journal Plos One, the researchers showed that they can encode image files of several kilobytes in size using metabolite solutions and read information from them. According to scientists, in some situations, small molecules can have even greater information recording density than DNA.
Scientists have collected their own artificial metaboloms – solutions of low molecular weight products of metabolism. The presence or absence of a specific metabolite in the mixture encodes one bit of digital data, zero or one. The number of types of molecules in the artificial metabolome determines the number of bits each mixture can contain.
For their work, the researchers created arrays of six and 12 metabolites – which means that each mixture could store six or 12 bits of information. After that, scientists placed thousands of mixtures on small metal plates in the form of droplets of several nanoliters. The content and location of the droplets, precisely placed on the surface of the plates by a special robot, encrypts the necessary data.
The plates are then dried, leaving tiny stains of metabolite molecules, each of which contains encrypted information. The data can then be read using a mass spectrometer.
However, this technology has some limitations. For example, many metabolites interact chemically with each other when placed in the same solution. This can lead to errors or data loss. But this is a mistake, which in the end can be an advantage. Perhaps you can use these reactions to conduct various operations with the stored data and even solve some problems. Get a kind of molecular computer.