Written in Your Genes

DNA Data Storage by Hayley Dunning

(Click link to see original article from The Scientist magazine.)

“…the team assigned the bases A and C as 0s, and G and T as 1s, creating a digital data stream. The manuscript and its accompaniments—a draft version of a book co-authored by one of the study’s authors, George Church, called Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves—was converted to HTML before being translated into the stream of 0s and 1s that could be written into the DNA sequence. The resulting stream was 5.27 megabits long, or 5.27 million 0s and 1s.”

Being a scientist, this piece of news from the wonderful world of science almost made me do cartwheels (If I could do a cartwheel, that is.). Data storage on a strand of DNA! Sure there are hurdles to cross and technology to refine, but it’s all doable. Can you imagine the possibilities? Libraries of data placed inside a single cell. Not only can your cat sit on your lap, but it can also carry around your favorite books embedded in its cells. 

Being a writer, this piece of news opens up the avenues of imagination. I can imagine science fiction/thriller/fantasy stories abound. Secrets being smuggled inside the bacteria inoculated onto a courier’s skin to be grown and the information sequenced from the cultured bacteria. Uncovering alien remains with complete set of information describing their advanced time travel engines. I could go on, and on, and on…

Being a pragmatists, this technology, at a minimum, can give us another reliable method to store information for long periods of time with minimal space. The base technology exists, heck a 53,000 word book preserved on a 5.27 megabit stream is a pretty darn good start. Cheap, rapid and reliable synthesis and sequencing methods will only get cheaper, faster and more reliable as scientist move forward in this realm of study. So exciting. Books, movies, music, video, anything digital can be transcribe.  

Did you enjoy your genes today?

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