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Scientists Store Digital Information In DNA

By Rob Schwarz on January 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm
Where we're going, we don't need harddrives...

Scientists at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute have successfully discovered a way to store data in synthesized DNA, or Deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecule that holds the genetic programming and instructions for living organisms.

What’s the point? Well, DNA can last quite a long time, if stored under the right conditions. Namely, “cold, dry and dark.” The information stored within can last thousands of years in a space no bigger than a speck of dust or the inside of a test tube.

“For the purposes of DNA synthesis, scientists took [the] information and converted it to base 3 – that is, zeroes, ones and twos.

From there, the data gets translated into collections of DNA’s nucleic acid bases, represented by the letters A, C, G and T.”

- Shakespeare, thou art stored in DNA, CNN

Researchers have also proven that it’s possible to store a variety of information formats, including images and audio, which can later be retrieved by sequencing the DNA. The formats they used to demonstrate included…

“…an .mp3 of Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream”; a .jpg photo of EMBL-EBI; a .pdf of Watson and Crick’s seminal paper, “Molecular structure of nucleic acids”; a .txt file of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets; and a file that describes the encoding.”

- Researchers make DNA storage a reality, Phys.org

A similar breakthrough occurred last year at Harvard, with the help of (who else) George Church, though it involves a slightly different method of storage.

Now…how long until we discover the secret messages left to us in our own DNA?

Image courtesy Pete.

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About Rob Schwarz

Rob Schwarz is a freelance writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Follow him on Twitter @Dimentoid or on Google+, and be sure to like Stranger Dimensions on Facebook!