Use of DNA as rewritable data storage; Research


Scientists have developed a technique to rewrite data on DNA in the cells of living bacteria.

This research has been done by scientists from Stanford University and has been published online in the May 21 issue of the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /]Deoxyribonucleic Acids (DNAs) are found to be the best things to store information. It has stable molecules and billions of base pairs coil without any difficulty into few microns of cell nucleus. However, cells can only read data from the DNA and new data cannot be entered into the DNA sequence.

Scientists, in this research, took a sequence of DNA to behave like a bit in a computer that is a piece of binary information in computer.

Scientists integrate two genes for red and green fluorescent proteins into bacteria (Escherichia coli) and two enzymes (that are used by the memory system) to cut and reintegrate a sequence of DNA. The attachment sites were designed so that the DNA sequence can be flipped every time, with one orientation representing 1 and the other side of orientation represents 0, when it is put back in. Researchers were able to know the flipping of color between the red and green for about 100 cell divisions under ultraviolet light. Researchers called their system a recombinase addressable data (RAD) module.

Scientists have spent three years for this DNA bit. This DNA bit can be used as a counter for cell divisions and can be of help in cancer development.

You can see the abstract of the paper below,

The use of synthetic biological systems in research, healthcare, and manufacturing often requires autonomous history-dependent behavior and therefore some form of engineered biological memory. For example, the study or reprogramming of aging, cancer, or development would benefit from genetically encoded counters capable of recording up to several hundred cell division or differentiation events. Although genetic material itself provides a natural data storage medium, tools that allow researchers to reliably and reversibly write information to DNA in vivo are lacking. Here, we demonstrate a rewriteable recombinase addressable data (RAD) module that reliably stores digital information within a chromosome. RAD modules use serine integrase and excisionase functions adapted from bacteriophage to invert and restore specific DNA sequences. Our core RAD memory element is capable of passive information storage in the absence of heterologous gene expression for over 100 cell divisions and can be switched repeatedly without performance degradation, as is required to support combinatorial data storage. We also demonstrate how programmed stochasticity in RAD system performance arising from bidirectional recombination can be achieved and tuned by varying the synthesis and degradation rates of recombinase proteins. The serine recombinase functions used here do not require cell-specific cofactors and should be useful in extending computing and control methods to the study and engineering of many biological systems.


Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn, and Drew Endy, (2012). Rewritable digital data storage in live cells via engineered control of recombination directionality. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202344109

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