After three years of work and a total of 750 attempts, Jerome Bonnet and his colleagues from Stanford University (USA) have managed to develop a system to encode, store and erase digital data in the genetic material of living cells . In practical terms, scientists have created the genetic equivalent of a “bit”, the smallest unit of digital information, with which two values, zero or one, off or on, can be represented. In this case, DNA segments are used that “are worth zero if they point in one direction, and take as a value one in the opposite direction ,” the researchers clarify. The data can be easily read, as the DNA sections have previously been modified to glow green or red depending on their orientation. And as it is a non-volatile memory, it stores information without consuming energy.
Having the possibility of programming and storing data within the DNA of cells promises to be a very useful tool for studying cancer, aging, the development of organisms … For example, the device would allow counting how many times a cell divides , and thus find out from what moment they become carcinogenic.
The invention, which they have called the acronym RAD , was released today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science .