Biostorage: Storing Bytes in Bacteria
Just one gram of bacteria could store as much information as 450
2,000-gigabyte hard drives in its DNA, a Hong Kong research team says.
Biostorage, or the storing of data in living things, is nascent but
not new, having been around for about a decade. But earlier efforts at
encoding data into DNA have been incremental – for instance, a few years
back a team of Japanese researchers encoded Einstein’s relativity
equation into the DNA of bacteria, demonstrating that it was possible
but otherwise not pushing the field forward.
years later the strides taken by the Hong Kong team are far more
significant, showing that not only text but also images, music, and
video can be stored within cells. The team devised a means of
compressing data into chunks that can be placed in different cells and
mapped so that it can be easily located later, much as CPUs chop and
store data in fragments. They’ve even developed a three-tier security
system that allows them to encrypt the data in an unhackable way, making
data stored on their bacterial systems impervious to cyber threats.
In theory, bacterial biostorage systems could hold vast amounts of
data in very small spaces, and since the bacteria keep replicating they
could feasibly store data reliably for millennia. But the applications
don’t end there; the team is exploring ways their techniques could be
used to encode extra information into organisms like genetically
modified crops to create a sort of "bio barcode” that would identify the
provenance of a certain strain of GM vegetable or help track the spread
of certain GM crops designs.