Scientists Convert A 53,000-Word Book Into DNA

Peter Pachal reports for Mashable:

In a scientific first, Harvard University researches successfully transformed a 53,426-word book into DNA, the same substance that provides the genetic template for all living things. The achievement could eventually lead to the mass adoption of DNA as a long-term storage medium.

Published Thursday in the journal Science, the experiment aimed to demonstrate the viability of storing large amounts of data on DNA molecules. Since the data is recorded on individual nucleobase pairs in the DNA strand (those adenine-guanine/cytosine-thymine pairs you may be straining to remember from high school biology), DNA can actually store more information per cubic millimeter than flash memory or even some experimental storage techs, IEEE Spectrum reports.

The difficulty is in the translation — both to DNA and back again (summarized in the diagram below). The researchers started with the book’s content, which included the text as well as 11 images and a javascript program, and converted it to binary code. Then they assigned every 0 and 1 a nucleobase.

After that came the heavy lifting: synthesizing the DNA strand, which would be 5.27 million bases long. They made the journey by splitting it into baby steps, each 96 bases long. When they were done, the book was a tiny speck of synthesized DNA that had about one-millionth the weight of a grain of sand. That’s got to look pretty attractive to anyone with a Big Data problem…

[continues at Mashable]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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9 Comments on "Scientists Convert A 53,000-Word Book Into DNA"

  1. that’s really impressive for hairless chimps
    they learned to write using Nature’s alphabet
    but before the chimps start monkeying around with Nature’s tools
    they ought to ape her methods and understand her means first

    if they could create a seed de novo
    it would prove they understood the tools
    till then
    they’re just an accident waiting to happen

    • Calypso_1 | Aug 18, 2012 at 12:01 am |

      I don’t know what definition for ‘de novo’ you are trying to use, but as for how it is used in genetics, that milestone has already been achieved.

      • by de novo seed production I mean
        take a bunch of chemicals (amino aids etal)
        and you make a seed and
        viola, a plant emerges from it
        or an animal

        humans can clone & manipulate DNA
        but to my knowledge no one has replicated a seed from scratch
        and then have it grow into an organism
        if they have, point me to the research

  2. Jeffery Allen | Aug 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm |

    Is it just me or is this a little scary… and creepy?

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