Ann Conkle
May 22, 2012

Totally RAD: Rewritable digital data storage in DNA

Stanford University researchers Jerome Bonnet, Pakpoom Subsoontorn and Drew Endy have developed a method for repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells. The team reapplied natural enzymes adapted from bacteria to flip specific sequences of DNA back and forth at will. In practical terms, they have devised the genetic equivalent of a binary digit -- a “bit.” The team calls its device a “recombinase addressable data” module, or RAD. “Programmable data storage within the DNA of living cells would seem an incredibly powerful tool for studying cancer, aging, organismal development and even the natural environment,” said Endy. Researchers could count how many times a cell divides, for instance, and that might someday give scientists the ability to turn off cells before they turn cancerous.