Your DNA holds hundreds of gigabytes of data in a space so tiny you could only see it under a microscope. It’s no wonder scientists and engineers are dedicating a tremendous amount of time and energy into figuring out how to turn DNA into a data storage device.
Up until recently, bioengineers were only able to write data once to DNA, but Bioengineers at Stanford University have now discovered a way to write and rewrite data to a strand of DNA. “We can write and erase DNA in a living cell,” says Jerome Bonnet, a bioengineer at Stanford University. “Now we can bring logic and computation inside a cell itself.”
Science News explains the findings published by Stanford’s Drew Endy in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.:
In the experiment, the enzyme traveled to a particular place on the sequence of DNA that contains genetic information and flipped a small section so that it read backward. Sending a second signal then flipped the sequence back to its original state. The flipped and unflipped versions thus represent the “0” and “1” states of a computer bit, says Bonnet … Working in the bacterium Escherichia coli, the team also tweaked the DNA so that it would fluoresce in different colors depending on the orientation of the strand in question. By watching the cells’ glow change between red and green and then back again, the scientists could tell when the DNA strand had been flipped.
I’m pretty speechless. Mostly because this stuff is WAY over my head. I’m pretty glad people a lot smarter than I are on the case of turning DNA into a storage device. We’ve been hearing for years that a test tube filled with DNA could store a heck of a lot of information if not our entire historic record. It’s pretty exciting to think of the potential storage possibilities that a device the size of a typical thumb drive could have if it was based on a DNA-like storage system. Lossless audio and raw video footage wouldn’t even be a problem, and that’s just in the consumer media market. Imagine what something like this could do in the medical industry?