Research Article: ETDB-Caltech: A blockchain-based distributed public database for electron tomography

Date Published: April 15, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Davi R. Ortega, Catherine M. Oikonomou, H. Jane Ding, Prudence Rees-Lee, Grant J. Jensen, Vasilis J. Promponas.


Three-dimensional electron microscopy techniques like electron tomography provide valuable insights into cellular structures, and present significant challenges for data storage and dissemination. Here we explored a novel method to publicly release more than 11,000 such datasets, more than 30 TB in total, collected by our group. Our method, based on a peer-to-peer file sharing network built around a blockchain ledger, offers a distributed solution to data storage. In addition, we offer a user-friendly browser-based interface,, for anyone interested to explore and download our data. We discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of this system and provide tools for other groups to mine our data and/or use the same approach to share their own imaging datasets.

Partial Text

Three-dimensional electron microscopy (3D EM) techniques produce large and information-rich datasets about biological samples. In electron tomography (ET), samples are imaged as they are tilted incrementally–typically 1–2 degrees between images. The resulting tilt-series of 2D projection images can then be computationally combined into a 3D reconstruction, or tomogram, of the sample with nanometer-scale resolution. ET has both biological [1] and materials science applications [2]. ET is frequently performed on frozen samples (cryo-ET) such as intact, small cells. Cryo-ET has revealed many details about cell ultrastructures that are inaccessible by other techniques, either because they cannot be purified intact or because they are not preserved by traditional EM sample preparations [3]. Another 3D EM technique, single particle analysis, also yields 3D information about cellular complexes [4].




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