Bio-engineers at Stanford University, have successfully “recombinase – mediated DNA inversion”; meaning they encoded, stored and erased digital information within living DNA cells.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This research could be explained as a non-volatile memory – a computer terms that cites how information can be stored without consuming power.
They invented a device called the recombinase addressable data (RAD) module. The team used RAD to tweak a section of DNA located in microbes. They measured the microbes response to ultra-violet light. The microbes glowed either red or green, depending on how the section was influenced (or turned on or off).
Lead researchers Jerome Bonnet said: “It took us three years and 750 tries to make it work, but we finally did it.”
Bonnet, Pakpoom and Endy took natural enzymes adapted from bacteria, then reapplied them to flipped targeted sequences of DNA with specific back and forth commands.
This binary digit of analogous data was encoded into the living cells.
Pakpoom explained: “Essentially, if the DNA section points in one direction, it’s a zero. If it points the other way, it’s a one.”
“Programmable data storage within the DNA of living cells would seem an incredibly powerful tool for studying cancer, aging, organism development and even the natural environment,” Endy added.
One possible implication of this discovery would be the allowance of researchers to count how many times a cell will divide to aid in turning off cancerous cells before they become problematic.