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Bacillus subtilis - Image courtesy
Be careful where you use that disinfectant

A research group at Keio University, Japan has announced the development of a new technology that enables the use of bacterial DNA as a medium for long-term data preservation.

The researchers are developing this new technology by creating an artificial DNA that carries the data. Multiple copies of the information are programmed into the DNA, which is then inserted into the bacterial genome sequence. The duplicate copies serve as backup against natural degradation. The scientists said they successfully encoded "e= mc2 1905!"--Einstein's famous theory the date of discovery--on the common soil bacteria, Bacillus subtilis.

Results from the findings were recently published in the electronic edition of Biotechnology Progress (PDF). The article's abstract reads:
The practical realization of DNA data storage is a major scientific goal. Here we introduce a simple, flexible and robust data storage and retrieval method based ON sequence alignment of the genomic DNA of living organisms. Duplicated data encoded by different oligonucleotide sequences was inserted redundantly into multiple loci of the Bacillus subtilis genome. Multiple alignment of the bit data sequences decoded by B. subtilis genome sequences enabled the retrieval of stable and compact data without the need for template DNA, parity checks and or error-correcting algorithms. Combined with the computational simulation of data retrieval from mutated message DNA and a practical use of this alignment-based method is discussed.
The significance of this development is the encoded DNA of bacteria would be passed down from generation to generation, making it a possible long-term medium. Today’s storage mediums are estimated to retain their integrity for up to a century, but scientists estimate that that data stored in bacteria could last for thousands of years.

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Yogurt Drive!!!
By antigrimace on 3/2/2007 5:02:21 PM , Rating: 5
I can't wait for my very first yogurt drive! Yee haw!

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By Pandamonium on 3/2/2007 5:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad data retreival would be nearly impossible without $100k equipment. DNA sequencing doesn't come cheap, and AFAIK, that's the only real way to "read" said data.

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By soydeedo on 3/2/2007 5:17:00 PM , Rating: 2
sequencing a short sequence like what they coded is cheap, but you're right the equipment itself isn't.

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By Spartan Niner on 3/2/2007 7:21:13 PM , Rating: 5
Oh it'll become cheaper. Just get that one chap from Seagate to mention the possibilities of storing more "critically im por ta n t data"...

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By frobizzle on 3/2/2007 8:10:57 PM , Rating: 3
Mom always bitched at me to wash my hands and I used to reply that the germs are good for you! Now, I have been proven right! How many terabytes of potential storage were sent down the drain??

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By JTKTR on 3/3/2007 12:56:09 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah and when you drop your RAM you can get E. Coli

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By Axbattler on 3/3/2007 1:24:02 PM , Rating: 2
There are quite a few 'alternative' data storage solution I've heard over the years, but I wonder how many of them will end up being commercialised.

RE: Yogurt Drive!!!
By jtesoro on 3/5/2007 12:08:09 AM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't say that I've heard a lot, but one of the weirdest storage solutions I've encountered is to bounce data off the moon. If you send some sort of data stream to the moon, it will take some time to get back, and you can keep bouncing it over and over so effectively "outer space" is your storage medium.

I don't know how much data you can store, but I'm sure the seek time will be as bad as power requirements, so this doesn't have much chance of getting commercialized.

Genetic Hackers?
By MrBungle123 on 3/2/2007 6:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
While the prospects for data storage are huge, does anyone else see a problem with making a DNA modifying technology mainstream? Won't this technology only make it easier for someone to create a drug resistant super-bacteria? Malicious coding with something like this could have far reaching impacts that effect more than just the computers the code was written on.

RE: Genetic Hackers?
By BladeVenom on 3/3/2007 1:46:51 AM , Rating: 2
Computer viruses could make you computer manufacture real viruses.

RE: Genetic Hackers?
By Pandamonium on 3/3/2007 11:15:30 AM , Rating: 4
The technology is mainstream. If you want to synthesize a segment of DNA up to 1,000 base pairs long or so, I think all you need is access to 1) supplies (~$500), 2) equipment (~$100k), and 3) the technical wherewithal. The technology has been around for at least a decade now, but the equipment is high priced because it's for research purposes.

More than that, the quickest way to generate drug resistant bacterial strains is NOT to try to play god with DNA. The quickest way is to take billions of bacterial cells, expose them to antibacterials, and let those that survive replicate. We do this on a daily basis with the proliferation of antibacterial soaps, hand cleansers, etc. And that doesn't include all the people out there who get prescription antibiotics like zithromax, take 2, "feel better", and save the rest.

RE: Genetic Hackers?
By BladeVenom on 3/4/2007 7:05:15 PM , Rating: 2
Even worse is the massive over use in livestock and poultry. It was just in the news recently that a new antibiotic is going to be allowed for use in livestock, even though this certainly means more resistant bacteria and ultimately more dead humans. But at least the drug companies will make more money.

I suppose....
By Fubar0606 on 3/2/2007 5:19:12 PM , Rating: 2
I mean We just don't see a practicle use at the momment, but THAT IS ALLOT OF DATA! DNA and RNA are huge! they have a giant surface area we just cant see, we may not see a purpose right now, but maybe someday we will create a laser of sorts that will be absorbed by the membrane of the bacterium and mutate its Genes with the C Ode, don't call me dumb for SAYING THAT but it is bound to happen, if they plan on making a practile use for this, and I love the time capsule Idea it reminds me of A.I. only the exact opposite lol... the ending of it I mean.. but one day we will be able to contain data as Light which would be similar to the data style of Minority Report, as supposed to just transporting as light ( FIBER OPTICS) we can read it as light so we wouldn't have to change it from Data to light and Data again it would just stay Light, that would be sweet..

RE: I suppose....
By Pandamonium on 3/2/2007 5:47:12 PM , Rating: 4
Polymerases already have proofreading. Their error rates are < 1/1billion if I recall correctly. As for inducing spot mutations to change "data", I don't see that happening for a very long time. You've got to be able to target a segment of DNA, which means you need to be able to synthesize nucleases on the fly. That's not exactly something that's quickly or easily done.

RE: I suppose....
By ZmaxDP on 3/2/07, Rating: 0
Strange thought
By darksilicon on 3/2/2007 7:49:03 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe we humans are being used by some matrix like race for storage purposes, and they are currently extracting information out of me right now

neat stuff
By soydeedo on 3/2/2007 5:12:07 PM , Rating: 2
i guess we could put the history of man on there or something you wouldn't mind sharing with everyone else, but otherwise security would be a pain in the butt. it could serve as a neat little time capsule of sorts though. =)

but yeah they'll also need to make sure and add in a few genes that code for proofreading enzymes or your data will look like it's gone through a few centuries of "telephone".

By JonB on 3/2/2007 5:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
Kilroy was here!

How fast would the drive be?
By senbassador on 3/2/2007 6:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
You might get a lot of storage out of it, but the seek times would be a nightmare, at least until we work out all the kinks. As if magnetic storage geometry wasn't complicated enough as it is, I am trying to picture how complex the layout would be for a bacteria based hard drive.

Although it would be a pretty cool device if you're goal was to hide data in it from computer forensics or if you're doing research in that area.

By boss coffee on 3/2/2007 6:15:00 PM , Rating: 2
He can extract digital information from a computer, encode it in the form of amino-acid sequences, and transfer those sequences into a fluid in the syringe... The information would be carried in their bloodstream...

The body itself becomes a conveyor of top-secret files!

By Farfignewton on 3/2/2007 8:38:46 PM , Rating: 2
3 million terabyte bacteria is not for everyone, so be sure to ask your doctor if it's right for you!

By Whedonic on 3/3/2007 3:34:25 AM , Rating: 2
How can your conscience let you contemplate the enslavement of trillions of bacteria simply for the purposes of data storage? Join me in PETB...People for the Ethical Treatment of Bacteria! Viva la Revolucion Bacterial!

By ira176 on 3/3/2007 5:07:38 AM , Rating: 2
Gone are the days that computer manufacturers slap stickers on your computer box that say keep water and magnets away. Now you'll need to keep your Tetracycline away from the computer. Computer viruses can be grown in your refrigerator too!

Mmmm.... This isn't new news.
By ZeeArteest on 3/3/2007 1:51:31 PM , Rating: 2
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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