Bioengineered conduits for directing digitized molecular-based information

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Molecular recognition is a prevalent quality in natural biological environments: molecules- small as well as macro- enable dynamic response by instilling functionality and communicating information about the system. The accession and interpretation of this rich molecular information leads to context about the system. Moreover, molecular complexity, both in terms of chemical structure and diversity, permits information to be represented with high capacity. Thus, an opportunity exists to assign molecules as chemical portrayals of natural, non-natural, and even non-biological data. Further, their associated upstream, downstream, and regulatory pathways could be commandeered for the purpose of data processing and transmission.

This thesis emphasizes molecules that serve as units of information, the processing of which elucidates context. The project first strategizes a biocompatible assembly process that integrates biological componentry in an organized configuration for molecular transfer (e.g. from a cell to a receptor). Next, we have explored the use of DNA for its potential to store data in richer, digital forms. Binary data is embedded within a gene for storage inside a cell carrier and is selectively conveyed. Successively, a catalytic relay is developed to transduce similar data from sequence-based DNA storage to a delineated chemical cue that programs cellular phenotype. Finally, these cell populations are used as mobile information processing units that independently seek and collectively categorize the information, which is fed back as fluorescently ‘binned’ output.

Every development demonstrates a transduction process of molecular data that involves input acquisition, refinement, and output interpretation. Overall, by equipping biomimetic networks with molecular-driven performance, their interactions serve as conduits of information flow.