Biotech: future of digital storage is plant DNA

Biotech: future of digital storage is plant DNA
Can this…… ……………………. (Photo Wikieditor243 Wikimedia CC)

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.– Marcus Tullius Cicero

Now the garden can be the library. Researchers at the University Medical Centre Maribor, Slovenia have encoded digital information into plant DNA. So what? you might ask. Oh; it is wild: in a box of seeds, you could have all knowledge on the planet encoded. Everything! Lasting for centuries; millennia!

Biotech: future of digital storage is plant DNA
…………turn into this?? Future data centre of biotech. Photo @benteh

Using the basic four code units of DNA as binaries (00 into A, 10 into C, 01 into G, 11 into T) the scientists wrote a little “Hello World”-program – in Python, actually – and inserted the modified DNA into a nicotiana plant. Picking a leaf, they could decode it, and see that the plant had perfectly replicated the little program. The plant would pass this DNA on to its seedlings, and the knowledge would be replicated for as long as the life form has growing conditions. Or it could be stored in seeds. Some seeds can survive thousands of years.. It blows my mind, really.

Of course, one of the things DNA do, is to mutate and change; and so the plant life could of course end up slightly altering the digital code.

Biotech: will sunflowers become data storage?
Biotech: pluck a leaf and see a movie, listen to some music or read a book. Photo @benteh

But everything considered: plants have almost endless redundancy, and the hardware we use to store stuff on now has a lifetime of a few years; a decade at most. The resources, raw materials that goes into one Google serverfarm is insane.

You could have a forest of knowledge, an endless storage centre. Imagine the impact – digital server centres then becomes farms: forests of real trees. You could eat Beethoven, your sunflowers could show you movies, the herb garden could be your library. Sharing saplings, shoots and seeds will be a sharing of knowledge, any park and greenery a library.

It is not only poetic; it would have a gigantic, practical impact on the environment. Oh, dear science: make it happen!

Check out the scientist blog here.

3 thoughts on “Biotech: future of digital storage is plant DNA”

    This just made my day. I know you had mentioned it, but I wasn’t aware what it really “meant”. Wow…

    • It blows my mind.
      There are of course some problems with it; editing the code would not exactly be a (cough) walk in the park. So to use your oregano plant to write stuff… not so easy. But as a repository, it will actually work. So in a sense it is a read-only, at least (conceptually) for now.

      Imagine… it would be beautiful, and humans might get back into caring for living things.

      And I suppose: technically not impossible to use our own DNA for the same thing. You could read books, listen to music all stored in your own DNA. And hilariously, this would be passed on to your children :D (they will of course hate your taste).

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