Cell DNA showing off direction programmed into their biological structure. Cells glow red or green under ultraviolet light depending on the code. the RAD system can flip the orientation. (via Stanford & Norbert von der Groeben)
Stanford bioengineers have found a way to record and rewrite digital data in DNA molecules; Don't worry, the development is not going to make you into a walking hard-drive…yet. The bioengineers devised a way to adapt natural enzymes (created from bacteria) to flip back and forth which creates a digital bit (pointing one way for 0 and the other for 1). The team calls the process of flipping the cell ‘Recombinase Addressable Data’ (RAD) which is a technical term for biological non-volatile memory and data storage.
The team was successful (after 750 tries) in controlling opposing proteins, called integrase and excisionase, in the same cell which creates the digital 1’s and 0’s. That process is easier said than done as proteins seem to have a mind of their own, meaning if both are active in the on, or 1, state you won’t get the inversion needed to make the biological memory. The team tested the RAD system in microbes which doubled over a hundred times as the ‘flip’ process held without fault. They were then successful in switching the protein sections which doubled over 90 times and set it back making the system both reliable and rewritable. The team states that the system could be used to ‘build digital behaviors in biological systems’ which would not only use DNA sequences as a rewritable storage medium but could also be used to turn off specific cells like cancer. It’s the hope of the team to increase the storage capacity of the DNA molecule from 1-bit to 1-byte over the next ten years and is seeking inspiration from various other science fields as to how to incorporate the biological RAD system. Think of storing all your medical and financial information directly in your DNA without ever losing it by natural disasters or identity thieves, but then again I wonder if the RAD system could be hacked as any other device like phones or computers?