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Can Our DNA Also Act as a Digital Storage Device?

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames.

Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living organisms are in a constant state of movement and flux, making them less stable and less predictable than the synthetic DNA material used in previous encoding experiments. Even though this technology is in its infancy, the research team was able to retrieve approximately 90% of the original message from the E. coli cells, effectively marking a new milestone in the advancement of our information storage methods.