Storing Digital Data in Living DNA Cells: Scientists Suceed in Groundbreaking Experiment

Scientists Successfully Store Digital Data in Living Cells

Scientists Successfully Store Digital Data in Living Cells

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May 22 2012 3:07 PM

Scientists Successfully Store Digital Data in Living Cells

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Scientists have managed to attach digital information to living cells for the first time.

Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images

Science fiction writers, you have a new inspiration. Researchers have successfully stored data in the DNA of living cells.

After three years and 750 different trials, scientists finally found a method for repeatedly encoding, storing, and erasing the digital information within the DNA, as part of a partnership between Stanford University’s schools of engineering and medicine.

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Think of their creation as a bioengineering bit; Graduate student Pakpoom Subsoontorn explains, “If the DNA section points in one direction, it’s a zero. If it points the other way, it’s a one.”

How could this data storage be used? Researchers say it could prove a powerful tool for studying everything from cancer and aging to the natural environment. Some day, doctors might even be able to use the data stored in living cells to effectively “turn off” cancer cells and stop them from multiplying.

Don’t get your hopes up too fast though—researchers say engineering biology further could be a decade away at least. That’s enough time to write that science fiction novel AND sell the movie rights.

Video produced by Krishnan Vasuvedan.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.