DNA can be replaced by modern media

Modern carriers of digital information — whether it is magnetic or optical disks, flash cards and so on — are not perfect. In their place are soon to come … the DNA molecule.


Throughout its history, mankind has used many different physical media — from stone, clay, bone, wood, papyrus and parchment to paper, plastic, magnetic and semiconductor materials. Scientific and technological progress is evident, however, he not only brought benefits. When it comes to media capacity or speed of registration, it is clear that none of the Sumerian scribes with their clay tablets would not be able to compete with modern hard drives and flash cards. But here in terms of durability …

Digital data are stored either forever or five years

And the carriers themselves digital information, and the software and hardware failure, or age — both morally and physically — with frightening speed. Say monuments Ugaritic literature, dating back two thousand years BC and discovered in 1929 during excavations of a hill Ras Shamra in Syria today, perfectly preserved, and most importantly — the researchers were able to read and decipher.

But one can hardly expect the same level of safety of the information are able to provide the current digital media: because today even Edison wax cylinders, not to mention the shellac records, made at the dawn of the sound recording, playback is easier than to decipher the information on other digital media start the twenty-first century. No wonder among computer scientists There is a joke: the digital data stored in either forever or five years — whichever comes first.

Biological evolution is not wrong

Meanwhile, there is an older, more compact, and, obviously, more reliable, robust and durable medium — ribonucleic acid. No wonder that the origin and development of life on Earth, all biological evolution associated with this vehicle. It is therefore understandable that the scientists are now trying to use DNA molecules for recording and storage is not a natural and man-made information. Recent advances in this area a group of European and American researchers presented in the prestigious British scientific journal Nature.

Thanks to modern efficient sequencing read the information encoded in the DNA of today is not much effort. Much harder to record such information as scientists are able to synthesize long as only a relatively short chain of four nitrogenous bases that make up the DNA molecule — adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T) and cytosine (C). In addition, with the synthesis of very high error rates, particularly associated with multiple repetitions of the same reasons.

Martin Luther King's speech in mp3 and other files

Yet Nick Goldmenu (Nick Goldman, on the cover photo) and his colleagues from the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hinxton near Cambridge have developed a method of high-precision transfer of binary computer code consisting of zeros and ones, the language of DNA, with its alphabet four letters. Further, British scientists have contacted experts of the American company Agilent Technologies is headquartered in Santa Clara, California, and sent them over the Internet several different files and instructions on how to synthesize them on the DNA molecule.

Actually, there were four files: audio recording of the famous speech of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" in the format mp3, photo from the European Bioinformatics Institute in jpg, a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets in txt format, and finally, in pdf format text famous publication of James Watson and Francis Crick in the journal Nature that the DNA molecule has the structure of the double helix. "We downloaded the files from the Internet and, based on synthesized several hundreds of thousands of DNA fragments. It looked it as a pinch of dust "- says Leprust Emily (Emily LeProust), head of the Department of Applied and biochemical studies of the Californian company.

The publication of scientific books in the form of biomolecules

And then this pinch of dust went back in Hinxton, where there the scientists were able to sequence the biomolecules and accurately decode inherent in their information. "In our paper, we show that DNA molecules can be used as a reliable carrier of digital information — Nick says Goldman. — The only thing that currently prevent this possibility — is the high cost of DNA synthesis. "

Attempts to transfer text files in the DNA code made before: as recently as last August, one of the leading American scholars — Chuck George (George Chuck), biologist Harvard Graduate Medical School in Boston, — published his book «ReGenesis» in the form of DNA . But the new method proposed by British scientists now favorably differs from the method of their American colleagues are extremely high accuracy. "We have provided a special program error correction — Nick says Goldman. — Typical errors when transcoding, immediately recognized and corrected. "

The main thing — to find a place where it is cold, dry and dark

DNA as a medium has a number of important advantages. First of all, it is compact. The total mass of molecules containing the entire text of the book is quite voluminous George Chuck, was less than a picogram, which is less than a trillionth of a gram. If the text of all the books in the library of Congress, encoded as DNA molecules, their weight did not exceed a few milligrams. Why are there books that exist in the world of film and television, and digitized in high resolution, easy to fit in a DNA molecule in a tea cup.

"Another important advantage of DNA — life — Nick says Goldman. — And for the safety of the information is no power supply is required. It is only necessary to put the DNA in a place where it is cold, dry and dark. After all, we were able to reconstruct the genetic information from the remains of the mammoth, which have stayed a few tens of thousands of years in permafrost. "

It turns out that hinder the wide application of DNA as the carrier of information, in fact, only the price. Today, they are indeed very high: only one re-coding of speech by Martin Luther King, has cost a five-figure sum in U.S. dollars. But experience shows that prices in genetic engineering and synthetic biology tend to plummet …

Category: Scientists, experts, science

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