Digital DNA

Digital DNA
All the movies, images, emails and other digital data from more than 600 smartphones (10,000 gigabytes) can be stored in the faint pink smear of DNA at the end of this test tube
Image Credit: Tara Brown Photography/ University of Washington

Last year a team of researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington announced that they had stored and read back over 200 MB of digital data stored on laboratory synthesized DNA molecules. To put this in context, a typical picture on a smartphone is in the region of 3 – 5 MB. Last week another team reported that they had made further strides and have managed to store more information using DNA than was previously possible.

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Synthesising new life

New DNA type
Professor Floyd Romesberg (right) and Graduate Student Yorke Zhang led the new study at The Scripps Research Institute, along with Brian Lamb (not pictured).(Photo by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)

At the turn of 2017 a team of scientists led by a professor Romesburg published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. The paper detailed their achievement of creating a semi synthetic life form. For years, scientists have had the ability to manipulate genes and we see the benefit with improved medicines and disease resistant crops. We even had Dolly the sheep and glow in the dark rabbits. Genetic engineering has become almost commonplace.

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An introduction to synthetic biology

Ginkgo Bioworks' state-of-the-art synthetic biology lab
Ginkgo Bioworks’ state-of-the-art synthetic biology lab

DNA is the life code, the blueprint if you like, for designing living organisms. Just like in construction, changing the blueprint will result in a different end product. Biotechnology has traditionally used the same technique, tweaking the blueprint.

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