Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just Scratching the Surface

Researchers store 90GB of data in 1g of bacteria

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have successfully shown how to store encrypted data in bacteria. A colony of E.coli was used for the experiment, with the equivalent of the United States Declaration of Independence stored in the DNA of eighteen bacterial cells. As 10 million cells are present in one gram of biological material, this would translate to a data storage capacity of 90GB.

Data can also be encrypted thanks to the natural process of site-specific genetic recombination. Information is scrambled by recombinase genes, the actions of which are controlled by a transcription factor.

The method has some flaws, however, as an expensive sequencer is needed to retrieve data, with the process described as tedious as well. What's more, toxic DNA usually found in stored sequences will mutate and remove the toxic sequences, taking some of the data with it.

Only copyright information can be stored in genetically engineered organisms thus far. Bacteria has the potential to be more resilient to keeping data storage than traditional, electronic means. Deinococcus radiodurans bacterium, for example, can withstand electromagnetic pulses and a radiation from a nuclear fallout. [via BluSci]

Thanks Lewka