Crosslinked Porous Protein Crystals with Guest Barcode DNA
Available for Licensing
US Utility Patent Pending (Not Yet Published)
At A Glance
Researchers at Colorado State University have developed highly porous, cross-linked protein crystals for storing and protecting barcode DNA. Porous protein crystals possess unique structural properties that may prove beneficial upon incorporation into a DNA-based tracking material.
Such engineered DNA sequences serve as synthetic barcode sequences. Ideally, these barcode sequences are easily distinguished from natural DNA sequences and are easily detected using qPCR or next-generation sequencing.
These porous protein crystals provide protection from potential environmental degradative agents; thus, the information encoded DNA will persist for long periods of time, remain unaltered, and are nontoxic upon ingestion.
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Marking materials with a unique symbol, tattoo, or signature is a common technique for monitoring product flow through supply chain, maintaining product inventory, assessing authenticity, and determining product age. Applying a unique marker to a material also provides a way of detecting fake, or counterfeit materials, such as pharmaceuticals, currency, or munitions.
Barcodes are often included on the product label of most materials/good which can be later scanned for downstream monitoring. While this approach is a widely used and practical technique, current external, visual labeling of barcodes fails to conceal the unique marker, thus allowing the opportunity for subversive duplication that ultimately goes undetected, compromising supply chain integrity.
Ideal ‘barcodes’, however, should remain visually undetected, greatly increasing the difficulty of illicitly reading and copying the unique signature. These next-generation barcodes would (1) possess a much higher information capacity than current barcodes; easily and securely be applied to various products; and be read/detected at a later time. While current, revised barcodes exist that attempt to address some of the criteria for ideal signatures, these techniques remain severely limited in the amount of stored information.
To this end, a growing field of research is currently exploring the use of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, as an information storage medium. DNA is an appealing candidate due to its small size, high information storage capacity, and decreasing cost in nucleic acid synthesis and sequencing. However, DNA by itself is sensitive to degradation by agents such as nucleases ubiquitous in the environment. Finding unique carrier particles to protect DNA that are ultimately biodegradable, could potentially become the barcode material of choice.
- Ability to mark various materials or for tracking
- Ability to tune the long-term degradation rate
- Biodegradable and advantageous to labeling living systems (e.g. edible barcodes)
- Open-ended honeycomb geometry ensures high capacity
- Offers loading/unloading schemes that are not feasible with full encapsulation
- Commodity product barcoding (e.g., pharmaceuticals that encode the manufacturer, lot, and pill number allows tracking of pharmaceuticals with high tendency for misuse; trackable munitions for military)
- Anti-counterfeiting (e.g., large bills, artwork, or other valuables could be given their own persistent covert DNA sequence)
- Environmental tracking – biomolecules can be advantageous biodegradable tracker particles for observing material flows in the environment (e.g. watersheds).
- Abiotic DNA barcoding would allow the power of metagenomic sequencing to be applied to entirely new kinds of problems.