Scientists Rewrite DNA Code In Cells With Erasable Digital Data

Bioengineers from Stanford University have devised a way of repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells.

Bioengineers from Stanford University have created rewritable digital data storage in DNA. The scientists from the Department of Bioengineering have come up with a reliable method for repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells.

Postdoctoral scholar Jerome Bonnet, graduate student Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and assistant professor Drew Endy reapplied natural enzymes adapted from bacteria to flip specific sequences of DNA back and forth at will. The team’s rewritable device is called a recombinase addressable data module, or RAD for short. Endy commented on the benefits of their device:

Programmable data storage within the DNA of living cells would seem an incredibly powerful tool for studying cancer, aging, organismal development and even the natural environment.

Researchers could use this method to count how many times a cell divides, and that might someday give them the ability to turn off cells before they turn cancerous. In practical terms, they have devised the genetic equivalent of a binary digit (or a “bit”), and their goal is to go from this single bit to eight bits (or a “byte”) of programmable genetic data storage.

Stanford Medicine

Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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