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Information storage in DNA

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Karyn Megy.

The human genome is the “hard disk drive” for human biology, encoding the instructions for constructing, activating and silencing each of the molecules of which we are made. DNA is the molecule that stores the genome: an intricate and endlessly complex entity that is present in every cell of our bodies. Genome scientists are able to read DNA sequences more and more quickly, deciphering how they work to control biological processes and understanding what happens when things go wrong. I will talk about an experiment my team carried out, in which we used standard DNA synthesis and sequencing methods, originally developed for genomics research, to store and then recover five computer files (about 750kb worth): all of Shakespeare’s sonnets; an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; Watson and Crick’s seminal paper on the structure of DNA ; a photograph of the European Bioinformatics Institute; and the code we used to translate it all. This research has opened the door to the use of DNA as a medium for archiving digital information, which is a growing challenge in an expanding and increasingly digital-dependent culture.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Science Society series.

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