Posts Tagged DNA
Harvard Stores 70 Billion Books in Record Breaking DNA Bio-Library the Size of a Thumbnail | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building
Harvard Stores 70 Billion Books in Record Breaking DNA Bio-Library the Size of a Thumbnail
by Timon Singh, 08/25/12
A team from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has discovered a way to store 70 billion books in a space the size of your thumbnail! Using next-generation sequencing technology, the team managed to encode the library in DNA, shattering the record for DNA data by a factor of 1,000. Harvard geneticist George Church picked his own forthcoming book, Regenesis, as a test subject and stored it 70 billion times.
Church, a founding core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, recently wrote the book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves in DNA. Thinking it would make the perfect test subject, he and his team decoded and copied it in the form of DNA.
Scientists have long thought that DNA could make an excellent storage medium, as it is “fantastically dense, stable, energy-efficient and proven to work over a timespan of some 3.5 billion years”. While Church’s team is not the first to demonstrate the potential of DNA storage, they utilized next-generation sequencing technology in order to encode a massive amount of data.
The team’s findings still and were published in the Aug. 17 issue of the journal Science. In it they stated that they used binary code to preserve the text, images and formatting of the book. While the scale is roughly what a 5 1/4-inch floppy disk once held, the density of the bits is off the charts – an impressive: 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits, per cubic millimeter.
“The information density and scale compare favorably with other experimental storage methods from biology and physics,” said Sriram Kosuri, a senior scientist at the Wyss Institute and senior author on the paper. He also praised the benefits of DNA saying “you can drop it wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,000 years later.”
“Imagine that you had really cheap video recorders everywhere,” Church said. “Just paint walls with video recorders. And for the most part they just record and no one ever goes to them. But if something really good or really bad happens you want to go and scrape the wall and see what you got. So something that’s molecular is so much more energy efficient and compact that you can consider applications that were impossible before.”
In theory, four grams of DNA could store all of the digital data humankind creates in one year. That would definitely save on storage space.
- Harvard Stores 70 Billion Books in Record Breaking DNA Bio-Library the Size of a Thumbnail (inhabitat.com)
- Harvard Stores 70 Billion Books (techandle.com)
- Inhabitat’s Week in Green: a locomotive that runs on hydrogen, honey detective and a 30 mph-capable hover bike (engadget.com)
- Harvard Researchers Can Store All the Data Humans Make in a Year on 4 grams of DNA (forbes.com)
- Harvard geneticist stores 70 billion copies of his book in DNA (gizmag.com)
- Harvard stores 70 billion books using DNA (computerworld.co.nz)
- Scientists store 700 terabytes in a gram of DNA (Johnny Mnemonic, here we come) (venturebeat.com)
- Harvard stores 704TB in a gram of DNA, may have us shopping for organically-grown storage (video) (engadget.com)
- Harvard scientists encode an entire book onto DNA (zdnet.com)
- Text Book Encoded In DNA (news.discovery.com)
FBI launches $1 billion nationwide facial recognition system
By Sebastian Anthony on September 7, 2012
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics, that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates.
Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a facial recognition system — and soon, detectives will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as DNA records and iris scans. In theory, this should result in much faster positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases.
According to New Scientist, facial recognition systems have reached the point where they can match a single face from a pool of 1.6 million mugshots/passport photos with 92% accuracy, in under 1.2 seconds [PDF]. In the case of automated, biometric border controls where your face and corresponding mugshot are well lit, the accuracy approaches 100%. Likewise, where DNA or iris records exist, it’s a very expedient way of accurately identifying suspects.
So far, so good — catching criminals faster and making less false arrests must be a good thing, right? Well, yes, but there are some important caveats that we must bear in mind. For a start, the pilot study has only used mugshots and driving license photos of known criminals — but the FBI hasn’t guaranteed that this will always be the case. There may come a time when the NGI is filled with as many photos as possible, from as many sources as possible, of as many people as possible — criminal or otherwise. This might be as overt as parsing CCTV footage and collating every single face into a database; or maybe you’re just unlucky and your face ends up in the system because you’re in the background of a photo starring a known criminal.
Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license and passport photo in the country — and DNA records kept by doctors, and iris scans kept by businesses. The FBI’s NGI, if the right checks and balances aren’t in place, could very easily become a tool that decimates civilian privacy and freedom. Time to invest in a hoodie, I think…
- Next Generation Identification (NGI) System: FBI Launches $1 Billion Nationwide Biometric Database (cryptogon.com)
- FBI plugs $1 billion into facial recognition tech to turn America into its own game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ (bgr.com)
- FBI Launches $1 Billion Nationwide Face Recognition System (yro.slashdot.org)
- FBI launches $1 billion face recognition project (newscientist.com)
- FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America (rt.com)
- FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America (EndtheLie.com)
- FBI Launches $1Billion Face Recognition Project (eurasiareview.com)
- FBI to Share Facial Recognition Software with States (blacklistednews.com)
- Privacy hawks fret as FBI upgrades biometrics capacities (news.cnet.com)
DNA: The Ultimate Hard Drive
By John Bohannon, ScienceNOW
When it comes to storing information, hard drives don’t hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has been mostly theoretical — until now. In a new study, researchers stored an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA — one trillionth of a gram — an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data.
A few teams have tried to write data into the genomes of living cells. But the approach has a couple of disadvantages. First, cells die — not a good way to lose your term paper. They also replicate, introducing new mutations over time that can change the data.
To get around these problems, a team led by George Church, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, created a DNA information-archiving system that uses no cells at all. Instead, an inkjet printer embeds short fragments of chemically synthesized DNA onto the surface of a tiny glass chip. To encode a digital file, researchers divide it into tiny blocks of data and convert these data not into the 1s and 0s of typical digital storage media, but rather into DNA’s four-letter alphabet of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts. Each DNA fragment also contains a digital “barcode” that records its location in the original file. Reading the data requires a DNA sequencer and a computer to reassemble all of the fragments in order and convert them back into digital format. The computer also corrects for errors; each block of data is replicated thousands of times so that any chance glitch can be identified and fixed by comparing it to the other copies.
To demonstrate its system in action, the team used the DNA chips to encode a genetics book co-authored by Church. It worked. After converting the book into DNA and translating it back into digital form, the team’s system had a raw error rate of only two errors per million bits, amounting to a few single-letter typos. That is on par with DVDs and far better than magnetic hard drives. And because of their tiny size, DNA chips are now the storage medium with the highest known information density, the researchers report online today in Science.
Don’t replace your flash drive with genetic material just yet, however. The cost of the DNA sequencer and other instruments “currently makes this impractical for general use,” says Daniel Gibson, a synthetic biologist at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, “but the field is moving fast and the technology will soon be cheaper, faster, and smaller.” Gibson led the team that created the first completely synthetic genome, which included a “watermark” of extra data encoded into the DNA. The researchers used a three-letter coding system that is less efficient than the Church team’s but has built-in safeguards to prevent living cells from translating the DNA into proteins. “If DNA is going to be used for this purpose, and outside a laboratory setting, then you would want to use DNA sequence that is least likely to be expressed in the environment,” he says. Church disagrees. Unless someone deliberately “subverts” his DNA data-archiving system, he sees little danger.
- DNA: The Ultimate Hard Drive (news.sciencemag.org)
- DNA: The Ultimate Hard Drive (wired.com)
- Harvard Medical School researchers encode full-length novel in DNA (theverge.com)
- Book written in DNA code (guardian.co.uk)
- Harvard cracks DNA storage, crams 700 terabytes of data into a single gram (extremetech.com)
- Soon you’ll be backing up your hard drive using DNA [Biotechnology] (io9.com)
- Harvard Researchers Can Store All the Data Humans Make in a Year on 4 grams of DNA (forbes.com)
- DNA: Database of the New Age (girlmeetswhiskey.com)
- Researchers encode entire ebook in DNA strands (geek.com)
High court throws out human gene patents
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowinghuman genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers.
The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Myriad’s BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been arguing that genes couldn’t be patented, a position taken by a district court judge but overturned on appeal.
The justices’ decision sends the case back down for a continuation of the battle between the scientists who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies that argue that a patent is a reward for years of expensive research that moves science forward.
In 2010, a federal judge ruled that genes cannot be patented. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.
But last year, a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases reversed Sweet’s ruling. The appeals court said genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a “markedly different chemical structure” from DNA within the body.
The Supreme Court threw out that decision, and sent the case back to the lower courts for rehearing. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable.
In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease.
“The question before us is whether the claims do significantly more than simply describe these natural relations,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion in the Prometheus Laboratories case. “To put the matter more precisely, do the patent claims add enough to their statements of the correlations to allow the processes they describe to qualify as patent-eligible processes that apply natural law? We believe the answer to this question is no.”
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.
Testing for mutations in the so-called BRCA genes has been around for just over a decade. Women with a faulty gene have a three to seven times greater risk of developing breast cancer and a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Men can also carry a BRCA mutation, raising their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer. The mutations are most common in people of eastern European Jewish descent.
Myriad Genetics Inc. sells the only BRCA gene test.
The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 11-725.
- High court throws out human gene patents (sfgate.com)
- Myriad’s Human-Gene Patent Rehearing Ordered by Supreme Court (pathologyblawg.com)
- High court throws out human gene patents – The Seattle Times (drugstoresource.wordpress.com)
- Gene Patents: AMP v. Myriad Genetics (patentlyo.com)
- Prometheus Decision a Harbinger for Myriad? (pathologyblawg.com)
- Supreme Court: Prometheus Decision a Harbinger for Myriad? (pharmexec.com)
- Supreme Court Rejects Key Biotech Patents (news.sciencemag.org)
- Supremes’ Prometheus Ruling Has Dire Consequences for Personalized Medicine (invivoblog.blogspot.com)
- US Supreme Court: Laws of nature are not patentable (h-online.com)
- Supreme Court Invalidates Prometheus Diagnostic Patents (pathologyblawg.com)