DNA-based molecular tagging system Potential to replace Printed Barcodes
Posted On November 11, 2020
The radio frequency identification technology has become a basis not just in retail but also in logistics manufacturing, health care, transportation, and more. Other tagging systems include the QR code and scannable barcode.
The recent advancements in DNA-based data storage and computation provide new potential for creating a tagging system that is lighter and smaller than traditional methods.
The University of Washington and Microsoft researchers have introduced a new molecular tagging system known as Porcupine. These tags can be programmed and read within seconds by utilizing a portable nanopore device. The team explained how dehydrated strands of synthetic DNA could take the place of enormous plastic or printed barcodes. Building on recent developments in DNA sequencing technologies and raw signal processing tools, the team's reasonably priced and user-friendly design renounce the need for access to specialized equipment and labs.
Molecular tagging is not a novel idea, but available methods are still complicated and require access to a lab, which rejects many real-world scenarios. It is the first end-to-end and portable molecular tagging system that allows quick, on-demand decoding and encoding at scale. Also, it is easier to get to as compared to existing molecular tagging methods.
The Porcupine tagging system relies on a set of distinct DNA strands called molecular bits, or "molbits" that include highly separable nanopore signals to simplify later on the readout. Each molbit comprises one of 96 unique barcode sequences joint with a longer DNA fragment preferred from a set of predetermined sequence lengths.
Porcupine can produce approximately 4.2 billion unique tags employing necessary laboratory equipment with no reliability compromise upon readout.
Though DNA is expensive to read and write, Porcupine gets around this by prefabricating the DNA fragments. In addition to lowering the cost, this approach has the added benefit of allowing users to arbitrarily blend existing strands to rapidly and effortlessly create new tags. This method protects against contamination from other DNA present in the environment while concurrently dipping readout time later.
The other significant benefit of the Porcupine system is that molbits are very tiny and measure only a few hundred nanometers in length. This makes them perfect for keeping tabs on small items or flexible surfaces that aren't suitable for conservative tagging methods.
DNA tags can't be detected by touch or sight. This makes them idyllic for tracking high-value items and sorting out legitimate goods from forgeries. A system like Porcupine could also be used to track essential documents. For example, for monitoring voters' ballots and prevent corruption in future elections.
In a Porcupine tag, one can read the data by rehydrating the tag and running it through a portable nanopore device. As advancements in nanopore technologies make them more and more affordable, it believes that molecular tagging has the potential to become a progressively more smart option in a range of real-world settings.
Porcupine is one more exhilarating example of a hybrid molecular-electronic system, combining new sensing technology, molecular engineering, and machine learning to facilitate new applications.
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