Although George Church's next book doesn't hit the shelves until Oct. 2, it has already passed an enviable benchmark: 70 billion copiesroughly triple the sum of the top 100 books of all time.
And they fit on your thumbnail.
That's because Church, the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and a founding core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University, and his team encoded the book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, in DNA, which they then read and copied.
Biology's databank, DNA has long tantalized researchers with its potential as a storage medium: fantastically dense, stable, energy efficient and proven to work over a timespan of some 3.5 billion years. While not the first project to demonstrate the potential of DNA storage, Church's team married next-generation sequencing technology with a novel strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest amount of data previously stored in DNA.
The team reports its results in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Science.
The researchers used binary code to preserve the text, images and formatting of the book. While the scale is roughly what a 5 -inch floppy disk once held, the density of the bits is nearly off the charts: 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits, per cubic millimeter. "The information density and scale compare favorably with other experimental storage methods from biology and physics," said Sri Kosuri, a senior scientist at the Wyss Institute and senior author on the paper. The team also included Yuan Gao, a former Wyss postdoc who is now an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
And where some experimental medialike quantum holographyrequire incredibly cold temperatures and tremendous energy, DNA is stable at room temperature. "You can drop it wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,0
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School