Bacteria can have digital information encoded into their DNA, about 2 MBs of information. Here’s the AFP story:
TOKYO (AFP) – For people who want to ensure their words last for their progeny, Japanese scientists have found a way to literally put a message into genes.
A research team said this week it had developed a technology for storing digital data in the DNA of bacteria, which unlike most living organisms can survive for millennia in the right conditions.
Each hay bacillus bacterium can store two megabits — the equivalent of 1.6 million Roman letters. The scientists can take out the microscopic implants in a laboratory and read them so they appear as ordinary text.
The team at Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences said the technology needs to be perfected but that it was optimistic about its future uses.
“If I wanted to store my personal diary in these live bacteria and take it with me to my grave, then my story can live for thousands and thousands of years,” head researcher Yoshiaki Ohashi said with a laugh.
In practical terms, the technology could eventually benefit companies such as pharmaceutical makers which want to “stamp” their brand.
“In doing so, the company can detect piracy and protect its patent. They can also store information at one specific area of the gene and retrieve it from there,” Ohashi said.
The researchers insert the data at four different places so even if one is disrupted, there would be backup.
But the team said they still needed to work before the technology could go on the market. In particular, the scientists need to ensure that the DNA will not be altered as live bacteria naturally evolve.
Hay bacillus bacteria are generally found in soil or decaying matter and are especially resistant to extreme weather.
I find it extremely annoying that the very first “practical” thing that they might use it for is for patents. Bullshit. I’d wager that the info will be stripped out of them just like pirates these days find ways to break DRM. Using DNA to encode digital information is extremely shortsighted, although, i’m insufficiently imaginative to come up with any great practical application right now. Stone tablets have worked fine for humans for thousands of years. Scribbling on the DNA of some bacteria seems a little overreaching. Medical records, perhaps? Nah… too impermanent.
As for impractical methods, i can see someone is going to be taking some bacteria, loading them up with great works of literature, and trumping Brion Gysin on the genetic level.