About that stored DNA

First the wow part:

A bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.

The work, carried out by George Church and Sri Kosuri, basically treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).

To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses.

Then the caveat:

You’re saying that they would take this and put it into the DNA in your skin cells and somehow your body would replicate it across all of the skin cells in your body??   That’s not how it works. If you were to put DNA in the nucleus of a cell, it doesn’t mean it will get picked up during cell mitosis.   Also, injecting one cell out of a trillion will not mean that cell will somehow magically divide and take over your whole body.

It would either be in your cell nucleus or it would be stored in a container within your body.  If it is just freely floating out there, it would be A) hard to find, and B) It would get mopped up by the body’s antivirus defenses.   Obviously, the body doesn’t like foreign DNA. And with no protective protein covering like normal viruses, your data would be open season for T cells and the like.

[H/T Chuckles]

4 Responses to “About that stored DNA”

  1. ivan August 18, 2012 at 20:12 Permalink

    With what DNA the UK police have stored they should be able to save every bit of knowledge in the universe. Maybe they thought that would give them power because one of them heard someone say that knowledge is power.

  2. James Higham August 18, 2012 at 21:42 Permalink

    I come back to Wolfie’s point about the quality [not] of the people entrusted with actually administering all that. Doesn’t inspire confidence.

  3. Chuckles August 19, 2012 at 10:58 Permalink

    It’s a nerd/geek chat-up line.

  4. James Higham August 20, 2012 at 09:00 Permalink


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