Friday, July 14, 2017

Nanotechnology Goes Biological

One of the hopes is that we will be able to store data at smaller and smaller scales, both for improved capacity ("Here's your 400 TB flash drive; don't sneeze vore it will fly away.") and speed: imagine data stored in atom relationships.  This 7/14/17 Smithsonian  article is about storage at the molecular level:
That’s why researchers have been on a quest to find more durable data storage, like diamonds and even DNA. Now for the first time, reports Gina Kolata at The New York Times, scientists have encoding a brief movie in the DNA of living cells using the CRISPR–Cas gene editing technique—a move that could lead to cellular recording of health data. They published their results this week in the journal Nature.
The concept behind DNA data storage is relatively simple. While digital files are essentially stored by recording a series of the numbers 0 and 1, DNA can store the same data by encoding the information into its four nucleobases, A, G, C and T.
As Robert Service at Science reports, scientists have been doing just that since 2012, when geneticists first encoded a 52,000-word book in DNA. Though initially inefficient, over time the technology has improved. In March, a team of researchers reported they had encoded six files, including a computer operating system and a film into synthetic snippets of DNA.
For this latest study, the researchers chose a film of a galloping horse recorded by British photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1878, one of the first motion pictures ever recorded, captured in an attempt to figure out if running horses ever had all four feet off of the ground.
Researchers used the CRISPR-Cas system to transfer the DNA to the bacteria. This system harnesses the power of the bacterial immune defenses to alter the bacteria's DNA, explains Ian Sample for The Guardian. When viruses invade, bacteria sends out enzymes to cut apart the virus' genetic code. And it incorporates fragments of the virus DNA into its own structure to remember the invader in case of future attacks. Scientists can manipulate this system, controlling which bits of DNA hitch a ride into the bacterial genome.
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