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Thursday, 27 January 2011 14:34

Scientists store data in bacteria

Written by Nedim Hadzic


Pave way for mp3 flu
Well, not really the mp3 flu part but scientists at Hong Kong's Chinese University have found that bacteria Escherichia Coli, a common inhabitant of humans who tend to eat godawful food, is one mean medium for long term storage.

The information tags along the DNA as additional information and since these single cell bacteria reproduce constantly, it allows for longevity of any stored data. Aldrin Yim, a student instructor on the project, said:”This means you will be able to keep large datasets for the long term in a box of bacteria in the refrigerator".

Furthermore, the researchers found means of storing larger chunks of files by compressing data, splitting it into parts and storing it between different bacterial cells. Apparently, they can “map” the DNA and the data can easily be located.

It is said that one gram of bacteria could store as much as 450 2,000GB disks, which does seem tempting. Indeed, such capacity would make it somewhat of a great medium, albeit not a very portable one. That is, unless you intend to eat it.

Escherichia Coli is usually found in human intestines and some of its strands aren’t quite human friendly. Namely, some cause food poisoning. In this case however, eating some would make you infected with your Black Eyed Peas MP3 collection. Talk about efficient and permanent storage, eh?

Last modified on Friday, 28 January 2011 10:09

Nedim Hadzic

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+18 #1 Jaberwocky 2011-01-28 10:51
hang on a moment.Just going to insert this 5 week old piece of toast into my computer.I need to back up the hard drive.!
+16 #2 Warhead 2011-01-28 13:43
Pave way for mp3 flu

Man, this sentence made my day! :D
+11 #3 thetruth 2011-01-28 14:20
It is said that one gram of bacteria could store as much as 450 2,000GB disks

900,000 GB, then. Or 900 TB.
+3 #4 Reavenk 2011-01-28 16:03
Saturday Morning Breakfast did a piece on this a while back.

+2 #5 thomasg 2011-01-28 23:19
Quoting thetruth:
It is said that one gram of bacteria could store as much as 450 2,000GB disks

900,000 GB, then. Or 900 TB.

It seems great, but when you think about it, it would take a ton of petri dishes to grow a gram of bacteria. Under ideal conditions in the lab you could get maybe 50 mg of E. coli on each one. So you're talking 20 bare minimum, probably way more than that.
+1 #6 yourma2000 2011-01-29 15:42
I'm actually a Microbiologist at university, DNA has extremely long sequences of amino acids reaching into the millions and despite being able to fit into a human body cell or bacterium, each DNA strand is nearly 2 metres long.

I can imagine storing data in DNA providing mass storage capabilities but the problem is keeping the DNA in conditions in which it can survive corruption, also if DNA was to be used as a storage option then it would be like a DVDr or CDr, one write and no rewrites as it would but impossible to change the amino acid sequences in the DNA without damaging it.
+2 #7 Abdussamad 2011-01-30 08:46
This reminds me of the very first episode of star trek enterprise. They show data stored in a klingon's cells.
+4 #8 Chug 2011-01-31 01:41
@ yourma2000

Is that the university of poor science?

Molecular biology 101:

DNA is made up of nucleic acids. Peptides and proteins are made up of amino acids.

Any plasmid or chromosomal DNA may be recovered easily, modified, ligated, cut and pasted and reintroduced into a new competent cell - its not difficult to do.

Technically its old news and has been done decades ago.

I hope your Laboratory head doesnt see your post or you might be fired.

@ thomasg

Petri dishes are for selection - grab one of those cells and throw it into TB media in a few shaking flasks and you can grow a kilo of cells overnight.
0 #9 bobjohn9995 2011-02-02 11:25
This probably won't work.

I am a Med school student and have worked with bacteria alot.

Bacteria have a high mutation rate. If you store data on there DNA it will mutate and corrupt there files.

They should use a more conserved region of the cell such as the membrane.

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