Forget about the Cloud; store your photos in your own DNA.

by Justine Bell on October 9, 2017 - 10:15am

September 29, 2017: Twist Bioscience issued a press release announcing that, together with the University of Washington, and Microsoft, they have successfully encoded “Smoke on the Water1” by Deep Purple, in the form of DNA2. They also encoded “Tutu” by Miles Davis. The recordings were made at the Montreux Jazz Festival with the collaboration of the "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"">École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) ArtTech and UNESCO. The data is stored on a piece of DNA smaller than a piece of sand. In 2013, a tiny speck of DNA was used to encode all of Shakespeare’s sonnets 2..

 

DNA is a very compact and stable storage system; having evolved through millions of years of selection to safely tore the maximum amount of information in the smallest possible space. Digital information can be stored using the sequence of nucleotides that form a long chain to make up the DNA polymer. There are four nucleotides: Adenine, (A), Guanine (G), Thymine (T), and Cytosine (C). The combinations of these nucleotides can be used to make a code for digital data, by converting binary code to the four letter code system wherein 00 = A; 10 =C; 01 = G, ;11 = T. The DNA sequence that is created can be stored as a dry crystal. To decode it, the DNA is re-suspended in water and sequenced. The sequence is then decoded, and converted back to binary. DNA is such a compact data storage system that all of Facebook could be stored in something the size of a sugar cube.

 

The implications of this nanotechnology for the future of computing are enormous. This will soon be a very efficient form of data storage, as the techniques of DNA synthesis, DNA amplification and DNA sequencing become faster and more automated. With the recent advances in gene editing, information could conceivably be encoded within the genome of a living organism, in the gaps between genes. A person could maybe carry all of the data on the Internet embedded in their DNA, and this information would be transmitted to their children and down through the generations.

1.     Deep Purple live, and in their prime: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/episode-358-outsmarting-the-nra-canada-s-magnitsky-act-ham-radios-for-puerto-rico-music-in-dna-and-more-1.4329733/researchers-put-music-in-dna-is-this-the-future-of-archiving-1.4329822

Times;font-weight:normal">2.     Twist Bioscience Press Release: https://twistbioscience.com/company/press/dna-data-storage-montreux-jazz

3.     Shakespeare encoded in DNA: Goldman, Bertone, Chen, Dessimoz, LeProust, Sipos & Birney. 2013. Towards practical, high-capacity, low-maintenance information storage in synthesized DNA. Nature http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11875

 

About the author

I was born and educated in Oxfordshire in England, and did a B.Sc. in Genetics at the University of Edinburgh. I was lucky enough to be able to do my Honours thesis with the group that cloned Dolly the sheep.