Bioengineers from Stanford University have developed a method of using live DNA as rewritable storage for binary data. Instead of trying to embed tiny computers into the human body, researchers have developed a way to biologically store data through the use of enzymes that can flip sequences of DNA into on and off directions so that each one is equivalent to a binary digit.
The research was led by Stanford postdoctoral scholar Jerome Bonnet with graduate student Pakpoom Subsoontorn along with assistant professor Drew Endy.
“It took us three years and 750 tries to make it work, but we finally did it,” said Bonnet of the team’s research. They call the biological data storage a “recombinase addressable data” module or RAD.
Using RAD, the team was able to modify DNA within microbes to change their color under ultraviolet light. Depending on the direction, the microbes glowed either red or green. The DNA sections can be flipped back and forth at will.
The researchers hope to advance the genetic data bit to a byte, but believes that endeavor could take another 10 years to achieve. The ability to write and rewrite data in DNA could have significant applications in the study of cancer.