DNA, the Future of Data Storage?

A fascinating article in the WSJ describes the blending on biology and data science:

n their work, the group translated the English text of a coming book on genomic engineering into actual DNA.

DNA contains genetic instructions written in a simple but powerful code made up of four chemicals called bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T).

The Harvard researchers started with the digital version of the book, which is composed of the ones and zeros that computers read. Next, on paper, they translated the zeros into either the A or C of the DNA base pairs, and changed the ones into either the G or T.

Then, using now-standard laboratory techniques, they created short strands of actual DNA that held the coded sequence—almost 55,000 strands in all. Each strand contained a portion of the text and an address that indicated where it occurred in the flow of the book.

In that form—a viscous liquid or solid salt—a billion copies of the book could fit easily into a test tube and, under normal conditions, last for centuries, the researchers said.

The ruthless pressures of evolution have been working for at least 3.8 Billion years to find the most efficient ways to store information and replicate it. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s come up with this amazingly practical solution. I would be that taking advantage of the increased dimensions over simple binary coding would lead to further breakthroughs. The Great Stagnation may not be here just yet.

(As an aside, the breakthroughs enabled by the Human Genome Project show the incredible returns that can sometime be achieved by Government funded research, even if they can’t be foreseen when the research begins.)

Remember the phrase “the medium is the message” imagine a synthetic organism which contains a message stored in its DNA. It could be sent to a location and deliver the information upon arrival. The future is more amazing than we can imagine.

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