A biomolecular computer made in a test tube has proved capable of decoding images stored in DNA. The computer, built by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have created a mixture of DNA molecules, enzymes, and ATP (the substance that provides energy for our own cells) that successfully decrypts information from a DNA chip, in this case the images shown above. The images were first encrypted onto the chip, and then decrypted by the computer and stained in a way that displays only particular sequences. This means that several images can be overlapped on the same chip, then recovered separately by looking for separate genetic sequences.

It's not the first use of DNA as a storage method, but it is one of the most impressive implementations we've seen of the technology, and the first we've seen to successfully decrypt information. The team says that biomolecular computers aren't going to be used the way we'd use laptops or other current-generation electronics. Instead, the computers could be used for extremely large-scale, long-term storage. Researchers also hope to take advantage of the fact that the computer requires no interface — it could interact directly with other biological systems, including living creatures. The final paper appears in Angewandte Chemie, a German journal of chemistry.