home
RSS
Shakespeare, thou art stored in DNA
January 23rd, 2013
01:01 PM ET

Shakespeare, thou art stored in DNA

The stuff we’re made of may be the means by which we store information that we want kept around long after we're gone.

Scientists have developed a technique of storing information in DNA, the molecule found in living creatures including humans that contains genetic instructions. The experiment is discussed in a new study in the journal Nature.

Researchers aren't using DNA from any living organism, or one that was once alive; instead, they are synthesizing it.

"We’re using DNA here as a chemical molecule of storage. It just happens to be the same molecule that is used in our bodies as well," said Ewan Birney, senior author of the study and geneticist at the United Kingdom's European Bioinformatics Institute, at a press briefing Tuesday.

As long as the DNA is kept cold, dry and dark, it will last for a long time. Consider that scientists can sequence DNA from woolly mammoths tens of thousands of years old that’s preserved by chance.

“There must be some point in time when it’s cheaper to store information for that length of time as DNA than as something that requires electricity or some other maintenance cost to keep it around,” Birney said.

Birney and colleagues did the math, and found that although DNA storage is expensive, it's more cost-effective than other methods if you want to preserve a digital file for somewhere between 600 and 5,000 years. However, the scientists say the synthesis cost will probably come down in the next decade, so DNA storage could even work for ensuring your grandchildren can see your wedding photos.

"Anything that you want to store we could store," Birney said. "Really, the only limit is the expense."

Study collaborators at Agilent Technologies provided DNA synthesis free of charge for the Nature paper, but commercial rates for DNA synthesis are probably between $10,000 and $30,000, researchers said.

The technique, researchers said, could even encode a zettabyte’s worth of data. That's enough to encompass the total amount of digital information that currently exists on Earth, which would be "breathtakingly expensive" right now, Birney said.

Researchers used five different kinds of digital information to show that their method would work to preserve a variety of media in DNA. These included a text file with William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, a PDF of a scientific paper, a photo in JPEG format of the European Bioinformatics Institute, and an MP3 audio excerpt of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Scientists showed that they could encode these files in DNA and then, by sequencing the DNA, reconstruct them with 100% accuracy.

So how would your digital files translate into DNA?

Text on your computer, while it may look like words, is actually encoded in your computer as ones and zeros - this is called binary. For the purposes of DNA synthesis, scientists took that information and converted it to base 3 – that is, zeroes, ones and twos.

From there, the data gets translated into collections of DNA’s nucleic acid bases, represented by the letters A, C, G and T.

That’s how scientists encode the DNA fragments. 

This is not the first study of its kind. In 2012, George Church of Harvard University and colleagues published a paper in the journal Science describing their own strategy for DNA storage. That research group operated independently from the British scientists.

One distinguishing factor in the new study is error correction, Goldman said. Built into their method are measures that adjust for possible errors in translating the digital material into DNA and back again.

An example is that the translation method in Goldman's study does not allow for identical letters of DNA to be next to each other - in other words, there are no instances of "AA" in the final DNA code, since this kind of repetition could cause errors, Birney said. They also encode the same piece of information multiple times in different ways in the DNA, in case something goes wrong.

DNA has the advantage of being light and small, researchers said. One of Shakespeare’s sonnets would weigh 0.3 picograms (10^-12) grams, said Nick Goldman, lead study author.

A small test tube holds about a petabyte – a billion megabytes – of data. DNA storing this much information is about as big as the space between the top two joints of your little finger, Goldman said.

“A gram of DNA would hold the same information as a bit over a million compact discs,” Goldman said. “Your storage options are: one thing a bit smaller than your little finger, or a million CDs.”

Given DNA's small size and long endurance, according to Goldman and Birney, the method could be used to propagate information about our current selves thousands of years into the future - assuming, of course, our descendants in the year 4013 understand languages as we speak and write them today.


soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. cialis viagra combination canadian pharmacy

    cialis on line purches canadian pharmacy https://canadacialisstore.com/ cialis canadian discounts

    April 20, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. canadian diet pills

    canadian pills pharmacy https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pills pharmacy

    April 21, 2021 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. zithromax capsules

    zytromax https://zithromaxes.com/ zithromax directions

    April 22, 2021 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sildenafil nz cost

    20 mg sildenafil cheap https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ where to buy sildenafil 50mg

    April 23, 2021 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Forklift For Sale Near Me

    May I just say what a relief to uncover someone who really knows what they're talking about over the internet. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren't more popular given that you definitely have the gift.

    https://www.ownedcore.com/forums/redirect-to/?redirect=https://wildwestlifttrucks.com/moreno-valley-forklifts/

    April 23, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. property for sale bayview idaho

    You have made some decent points there. I looked on the web for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

    https://map.google.com.bz/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https://meganleary.com

    April 23, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Mechanics Riverside

    Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this web site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the information!

    https://d.agkn.com/pixel/2389/?che=2979434297&col=22204979,1565515,238211572,435508400,111277757&l1=https://newportcatalina.com

    April 23, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rv restore and repair

    http://niwai.ifro.ir/admin/Portal/LinkClick.aspx?Value=http://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-torrance-california/

    April 24, 2021 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Body Shop Riverside

    http://jm9.loveshop.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=salonsbocaraton.com/best-colorist-boca-raton-boca-raton-hair-salons.htm/3-4

    April 24, 2021 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. avanafil

    avanafil buy avanafil 50mg

    April 26, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. homes for sale rathdrum idaho

    https://sense-life.com/forum/go.php?https://meganleary.com

    April 27, 2021 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. organic viagra in canada

    how much is viagra in canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ generic viagra cost walmart canada

    April 28, 2021 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. average perscription pills taken by 65 year old canadian?

    canadian weight loss pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian diet pills

    April 30, 2021 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. canadian generic cialis safe

    cialis through canadian pharmacies https://canadacialisstore.com/ buying canadian cialis

    May 1, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. online erectile dysfunction prescription

    erectile winstrol https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ is erectile dysfunction a chronic disease

    May 1, 2021 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. generic chloroquine phosphate

    who makes chloroquine phosphate https://chloroquineorigin.com/ is chloroquine phosphate the same as hydroxychloroquine

    May 4, 2021 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Mechanics California

    https://cse.google.dm/url?sa=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https://ocrv.xyz

    May 4, 2021 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. aika online review

    http://google.co.bw/url?q=https://aikareborn.com

    May 4, 2021 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. aika private server

    https://cse.google.com.do/url?sa=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Faikareborn.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 5, 2021 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. priligy

    priligy pills usa buy priligy uk

    May 5, 2021 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. semi truck radiator repair

    https://cse.google.es/url?rct=i&sa=t&url=https://sprintervanrepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Optometrist

    I enjoy reading through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

    http://www.groupecho.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.optometristphoenixaz.com

    May 5, 2021 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. truck exhaust installation

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this subject here on your web site.

    https://clients1.google.fr/url?sa=i&url=https://fleetautorepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. van conversion

    This excellent website definitely has all the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    https://local.google.fm/url?q=j&sa=t&url=https://sprintervanrepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. health online training

    There's certainly a great deal to find out about this topic. I like all of the points you made.

    https://cse.google.co.bw/url?q=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https://mastermindformen.com

    May 5, 2021 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. casino near me

    http://niceassthumbs.com/crtr/cgi/out.cgi?id=137&l=bottom_toplist&u=https://www.ocrv.tv

    May 5, 2021 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. commercial truck body repair

    Having read this I believed it was really informative. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    https://google.com.cy/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https://fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    May 6, 2021 at 04:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Fiberglass California

    https://cse.google.com.fj/url?sa=i&rct=j&url=https3A2F2Fcarsonrvexperience.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 6, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. business training near me

    http://images.google.com.vc/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://mastermindformen.com

    May 6, 2021 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. truck stops with tire repair near me

    I blog frequently and I truly thank you for your information. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    https://imgab.seenthis.co/t/https://www.fleettruckrepairshop.com

    May 6, 2021 at 08:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. fire truck repair shop

    Great post! We are linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.

    https://image.google.cl/url?sa=i&url=https://fleetservicesocrv.com

    May 6, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Optometrist Near

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Many thanks!

    http://www.oznaczenie-ce.pl/redirect.php?site=https://eyedoctorphoenixaz.com

    May 6, 2021 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. sandwiches near me

    https://avfocus.avclub.pro/bitrix/redirect.php?event1=news_out&event2=http2F2FADnh-sA1ch-bA1n-hA0ng-chung-cB0-vincity-ocean-park-tBBA7-91D0D0D1D184B582B0&goto=https://howtobrews.com

    May 6, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. truck shop orange county

    https://eachnow.com/watch?v=xmeTLPAgxaI

    May 6, 2021 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Forklift Extensions Los Angeles

    Very good info. Lucky me I found your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!

    http://uk.youtuberepeater.com/watch?v=pfFD5aEeFhs

    May 6, 2021 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Craft Breweries Near Me

    You are so awesome! I don't believe I've read through anything like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with some unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

    http://www.libertyad.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.howtobrews.com

    May 6, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. unemployment office near me

    Very good write-up. I definitely love this website. Stick with it!

    https://www.irrigationnz.co.nz/ClickThru?mk=5120.0&Redir=http://www.fleetvehiclerepairshop.com

    May 7, 2021 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. remodel rv bathroom

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you should write more about this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but usually folks don't speak about such issues. To the next! Many thanks!!

    https://videogg.com/watch?v=-zLxOy3vX_c

    May 7, 2021 at 06:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Forklift Rental Orange County

    Saved as a favorite, I love your website!

    http://heartvod.com/play=dBezC9hXVu0

    May 7, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Rose Wine Near Me

    https://google.cf/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://allbrewsupplies.com

    May 7, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Forklift Parts Los Angeles

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thank you!

    https://cse.google.as/url?q=https3A2F2Fforkliftrepairorangecounty.com&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGaY_nlK9ozc51fqwjiVdMaYZL7rg

    May 7, 2021 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. clothing stores near me

    https://barbados.org/al/?event=ad.logClickampadvert=DC6FF007FAD78E23C54A673E3258DDC0EE638CB31CFE6FB9D0F4E0C53EF6B1276EC9DDCA3D10A7EA5E5F52955053E7F2A0C5D4D51F5050E21EC0B7F8CDCDA1EB3BBEEEDAB3EBDC25114C276741BA028E&webAddress=http://www.ocrv.store

    May 7, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. best rv repair shop near me

    I'm excited to discover this great site. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every part of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new information on your web site.

    http://www.vidtunez.com/watch?v=BIx3f6Ksv6c

    May 7, 2021 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Content Marketing Company Orange County

    http://forum.near-fest.com/index.php?thememode=mobile;redirect=https://affordableranking.com

    May 7, 2021 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. rv vinyl wrap

    There is definately a lot to learn about this issue. I love all the points you made.

    http://imgarden.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 7, 2021 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Content Marketing Club

    Good article. I am dealing with a few of these issues as well..

    https://www.trk.atomex.net/cgi-bin/tracker.fcgi/clk?cr=8898&al=3369&sec=3623&pl=3646&as=3&l=0&aelp=-1&url=https://affordableranking.com

    May 7, 2021 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Internet Marketing Mechanics

    https://nanohub.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Digital Marketing Service

    http://www.officeservice.com.br/trackMKT/trackerFolha.aspx?DESCRIPTION=HotSite_EcrmContabil&FROM=Workshop&DESTINATION=https://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. speed shop orange county

    Greetings, There's no doubt that your website might be having web browser compatibility issues. When I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, great blog!

    http://funsim.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 8, 2021 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Social Media Marketing Agency California

    https://www.nyc.hiremedical.com/home/redirect/?site=https://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.