Harvard researchers turn book into DNA code, then read it back

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Researchers at Harvard University have taken a book and encoded it into the genes that make up DNA, with the conclusion of the experiment being that they were able to read the DNA-encoded book back accurately.

The results of the experiment were reported yesterday, though achieving such a feat on a regular basis is still a little out of reach for the average person. The technology is exciting however, and according to the researchers billions of books could be placed inside a test tube and should theoretically last for centuries.

Stanford’s Drew Endy, a synthetic biologist, said “It shows that the vast increase in capacity to synthesize and sequence DNA can be applied to store significant amounts of data. If you wanted to have your library encoded in DNA, you could probably do that now.” Endy was not involved in the Harvard project.

Encoding information into DNA isn’t new but this is the largest successful project to date. According to the Wall Street Journal the volume which was converted by the Harvard team, a book on genomic engineering, consisted of “53,426 words, 11 illustrations and a JavaScript computer program.”

The project’s lead researcher, bioengineer Sriram Kosuri, said “It is a very simple way to store information. This is sequential, like a magnetic tape, where you have to spool through stuff to get at the data.” It is also a very expensive, specialised and time-consuming way to store information. Hopefully that will change soon so we can get a fingernail full of ebooks and a real retina display.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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