The data could even be passed on to the organisms' offspring.
Before now, we’ve all known DNA to have some interesting capabilities. One of which is being able to store a large amount of data at a small size. Due to its immense density, a single gram of synthetic DNA can store over 215 petabytes of data. Now scientists have been able to effectively store data inside the DNA of living bacteria.
The scientists are from the Columbia University. And their success in writing data into DNA could prove usefull in the near future.
In other to store data in DNA, a machine called a DNA synthesizer has to convert the data from its binary formats into organic code. (which consists of adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine).
Unfortunately, the longer this code is, the less accurate the work of the synthesizer becomes. So as an alternative solution, researchers break up the code into chunks. DNA sequencers then have to piece them together again to access the data.
After all this, it still doesn’t stop the DNA from degrading over time. This means that data storage won’t last forever, as Science points out.
So as a way out, the researchers from Columbia are trying to figure out if the same thing works with living organisms. And if it does, data would last much longer. And probably even get passed on to the offspring.
Columbia’s Harris Wang and his team has been working on doing just this for the last couple of years. Before now, the team managed to electrically encode 72 bits of data to write the string of letters “Hello world!” into a population of bacterial cells.
They used CRISPR to store data in these active genes. CRISPER is a popular gene-editing technique that can splice and edit new sequences into DNA.
“This work establishes a direct digital-to-biological data storage framework. And advances our capacity for information exchange between silicon- and carbon-based entities.” The team writes in their paper published this week in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
Upon all the amazing feat, that’s not a lot of data.
“We’re not going to compete with the current memory storage systems,” Wang told Science.
The team will also have to figure out a way for the data to survive mutations and replications of the bacteria’s DNA.
READ MORE: Scientists ‘program’ living bacteria to store data [Science]
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