Bacteria Hard Drives – isn’t that the weirdest thing you have heard of today? Scientists have always been crazy folk (and we are thankful to them for being so). Harvard scientists have proved us right again! They have come up with a method in which they have turned bacteria into hard drive. In other words, they have created Bacteria Hard Drives. What have they done? They have just manipulated bacterial DNA, which allowed them to store data in bacteria.
Bacteria Hard Drives – The Technique
These Harvard scientists have used a process or technique known as “Molecular recordings by directed CRISPR spacer acquisition”. Okay, that’s a mouthful of a name but yes, that is what it is called.
The explanation of this process was published in the journal Science. The article that was published says that the aforementioned method allows a novel storage medium creation. Also, the technique allows the manipulation of the genome of the organism on a long term basis.
This is precisely what was published in the article:
“The ability to write a stable record of identified molecular events into a specific genomic locus would enable the examination of long cellular histories and have many applications, ranging from developmental biology to synthetic devices.”
Bacteria Hard Drives – How the Process Works
The scientists say that the CRISPR/Cas system allows this to happen. In this system, a bacterial DNA will first take the DNA of a virus that attacks it and cut it into small snippets. The cut out DNA of the virus then inserted into the DNA of the bacteria so that it can build a resistance against the virus that attacks it.
This very process made the scientists think of creating viral DNA that are false and have chosen data stored in them. The engineered DNA is then taken up by the bacteria, sliced into pieces and absorbed into its very own genome. Now that the genome has the chosen data, the bacteria will successfully transmit the same data to its new generations.
Bacteria Hard Drives – The Problems Faced
There is one problem that the scientists faced. The process is not foolproof as of now. The bacteria that have been used for the trial only managed to absorb the encoded data partially. This means that perfecting these bacteria hard drives will take some time.
Good side however is that absorbed data is sequential. What does that mean? It simply means that if the same sequence of a particular encoded data is given to enough bacteria, the entire data can be decoded back by combining individual sequences that these bacteria absorb!
Bacteria Hard Drives – Success So Far
So far the Bacteria Hard Drives that the scientists have created have stored only 100 bytes of data. For the experiment, the scientists selected E. coli and used its DNA. 100 bytes of data means about 100 numerals or text characters. Scientists however say that other bacteria species have larger genome compared to E. coli and hence, larger data strings can be fed to them. Scientists are also hopeful that bacteria can be genetically engineered so that unlimited data can be stored.
What Will Bacteria Hard Drives Mean in Future
As of now the applications are very limited but in future, Bacteria Hard Drives can mean incredible developments in the field of encryption. It can also mean danger. For example, stealing sensible information will become easy. A person can easily carry genetically engineered bacteria loaded with tons of data inside his/her body or simply on the skin and pass through security screenings without being caught. Later the bacteria can be extracted in a lab and the data can be extracted and used.