Message in a Bacterium May Be Next “Invisible Ink,” Tufts University Study

Scientists encrypted a secret message into genetically-engineered E. coli bacteria using a method that one day may be useful for preventing counterfeiting or covert communications. The E. coli were modified to glow and express one of seven colors, which were used to create a coding system that allowed for the entire alphabet, the digits 1-9 and some symbols, according to a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. E. coli, better known as a source of food poisoning, when encoded can be used like “invisible ink,” containing messages that can’t be detected until the recipient unlocks the secret message imprinted on paper with a special bacteria-growing solution. The method may be more effective than transmitting sensitive data electronically, researchers said.

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