DNA storage…song lyrics?

13 Jan


Scientists have just found that Song lyrics spliced into man-made DNA and then put in living bacteria can be retrieved fairly easily. One wonder what scientists do all day to come up with something like this. Apparently the current methods of storing information, wether it be magnetic and electronic (tapes, computer hard drives) to non-living organic (paper, shaving message into the back of a dead cat) are easily lost and destroyed. So they figured that in case there was some cataclysmic disaster important information could thrive and survive in hardy bacteria which would reproduce and carry their message to successive generations.

[b]”The scientists took the words of the song It’s a Small World and translated it into a code based on the four “letters” of DNA. They then created artificial DNA strands recording different parts of the song. These DNA messages, each about 150 bases long, were inserted into bacteria such as E. coli and Deinococcus radiodurans.

The latter is especially good at surviving extreme conditions, says Wong. It can tolerate high temperatures, desiccation, ultraviolet light and ionising radiation doses 1000 times higher than would be fatal to humans.”[/b]

Now this is something that has always facinated me, this type of idea. Why? because in such a scenario, where this life forms sole purpose was to carry an important message in DNA…well…it’s reproduction and survival as a race would be more important than anything else. Individual bacteria’s life would be unimportant. Survival to reproduce would be #1 priority. Well….isn’t that how life is structured now? We live seemingly only to reproduce..and survival of the species is far more important than survival of individuals. The structure of evolution..survival of the fittest etc..ensures that only the ones most able to survive live on to reproduce..and have offspring who will also survive, and those too weak or unable to reproduce die out, ensuring survival of the fittest.

Now going back to that bacteria..it would go on in its little bacteria world..reproducing, living, unaware of it’s purpose. Maybe we are like that bacteria..maybe we carry some important information in our genetic structure that our current technology cannot decipher yet. I hope to god though, that it is not the lyrics to “it’s a small world after all”


3 Responses to “DNA storage…song lyrics?”

  1. jace January 13, 2003 at 8:35 pm #

    If you’ve ever observed, there are essentially two classes to the animal kingdon. One emphasizes survival of the group, and the other survival of the individual. The first is comprised mostly of the insect family, particularly social insects like ants and bees, and animals that are low on the food chain like antelope. The other is mostly carnivore.
    I’m not sure where to place humankind. Group oriented with oddball individuals fighting for their freedom, or individual oriented with group advancement senses only coming to exist in recent centuries?
    As for storing information in bacteria DNA, that is really cool. I’m reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age currently and he describes a nanotech bot that carries a carbon-polymer tape containing a terabyte of data in a casing the size of a dust particle. That was cool, but I think putting it in a reproducing (and therefore self-preserving) container is a cooler idea. Current data encryption standards are good enough to ensure the data isn’t easily misused.

    • bboyneko January 13, 2003 at 8:41 pm #

      I would disagree about any animal group emphasising survival of individual. When it comes to reproducing, that is every organisms goal. Reproducing does not preserve the individual, but only the species and therefore its DNA and other genetic information.

      • jace January 13, 2003 at 9:13 pm #

        I was referring to the fact in a setup like an ant colony, an individual ant’s life has no value against the welfare of a colony. Compare with, say, a pride of lions where every single member’s life is important to the welfare of the group.

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