What If You Could Store Data In Plant?

When it comes to storing data, sometimes old school hard drives can be so annoying, especially when it comes to storing a huge chunk of data (for example storing entire music collection), those old school hard drives appear to be incompatible and tiny.


I was also annoyed by the amount of disk space on my computer. It made me wonder “Will we ever be able to invent technologies that can store entire World data present today into a single disk or may be a couple of disks?”

It seems I was not the only one who came across with such weird thoughts.

Someone has actually found a solution to this problem.

Karin Ljubic Fister, a researcher at University Medical Centre Maribor, Slovenia and her colleagues believes they can store all of the archives of the world in a box of seeds.

And this is not just a scientist dream, Researcher in Slovenia conducted a proof of concept study by transforming binary data coding for a simple message into the DNA of a plant.

During an interview for New Scientist, Karin Ljubic Fister said they inserted a simple computer program “HELLO WORLD” into tobacco plant`s DNA. Then they took the cutting leaf, planted it and let it grew to a full tobacco plant from it. As it was essentially cloning, so all the leaves of the plant and seeds contained the “HELLO WORLD” program encoded in their DNA.

My team inserted a simple computer program “HELLO WORLD” into a tobacco plant's DNA. Then they took a portion of a leaf, planted it and let it grow to a full tobacco plant from it. As it was essentially cloning, so all the leaves of the plant and seeds contained the “HELLO WORLD” program encoded in their DNA.

A Brief History of DNA DATA STORAGE

May 2010: Birth of First Synthetic Cell

For the first time, scientists of J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California made a bacterial genome from smaller DNA subunits and then transplanted the whole thing into another cell. Scientist community was overwhelmed by the success and termed the achievement similar to creating life.

August 2012: Books and JavaScript stored in DNA molecules

George Church of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and colleagues have encoded a 53,400-word book, 11 JPG images and a JavaScript program – amounting to 5.27 million bits of data in total – into sequences of DNA.

 January 2013: Synthetic genome as genetic hard drive

  • British Scientist used ‘a genetic hard drive to download all 154 of Shakespeare`s sonnets on to strands of synthetic DNA
  • Later the same technique was used by researchers of Cambridgeshire laboratory to store a 25-second excerpt from Martin Luther King`s ‘I have a dream” speech and a photo of the laboratory itself.
  • Researchers were also able to transfer a copy of Watson and Crick`s paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.

Mrs Fister's Study is Next Evolution in The History of Genome Hard Drives

Fister says "the study is the first of its kind of storing data in the DNA of a multicellular organism.”

Fister and her husband Iztok encoded a “HELLO WORLD” computer programme into the DNA of tobacco plant seeds using a piece of circular DNA called plasmid.

Basically, a computer program is binary code; a sequence of 0s and 1s and the DNA is composed of four letters- A, G, C, and T.  They assigned a binary value of each DNA letters. For A- 00, C- 10, G- 01 and T- 11.

Assigned Binary Value for each DNA letters

Assigned Binary Value for each DNA letters

After they finished the assembling the stretch of synthetic DNA, they used bacteria to transfer it to tobacco plants.

Every cell in the grown tobacco plants contained the information, as the program was encoded within their own DNA.

To access the information, DNA was extracted from a cutting of the plant and sequenced using existing DNA analysis method.

Potential to Solve Storing Crisis in this Age of Information

Genome hard drive has a huge potential of eliminating storing crisis in the age of information. One gram of DNA could store the equivalent of 14,000 Bluray discs.

For example human body; each cell of the human body contains the entire set of instructions for making a human packaged into bundled of DNA.

With present technology, we are storing massive data in mammoth data centres and stored data has to backup to a new disk periodically. That requires more space and resources.

Genome hard drives have the potential to replace these monstrous data centres.

Wisdom Tree

knowledge tree

Ever heard of Bodhi tree or Wisdom tree, Imagine walking in a park that is actually a library. Every plant, flower, and shrub full of archived information.

You sit down on a bench, touch your handheld DNA reader to a leaf and access the vast library of knowledge directly from it or choose to watch a documentary amid the greenery. Literally this is similar to "Knowledge  of tree".

However, DNA is not immune to degradation, if the DNA library is stored near a source of ionizing radiation, such as X-rays and for UV light, it could be degraded over time.

Another disadvantage is biological tools that are used by life to read and repair DNA can read the information incorrectly, or introduce errors when repairing or copying it.

Though present DNA technology is expensive and not so advanced to access information from any handheld device, but we should not be surprised if we see a park containing world`s entire data 10 years from now.

What If You Could Store Data In Plant? was last modified: November 6th, 2017 by John Harris

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