Communicating with Aliens through DNA

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Microvenus–The first non-biological message encoded in DNA, by Joe Davis

By Christina Agapakis
DNA encodes the information for all the proteins inside the cell, their amino acid sequence, when and where to turn them on, and a whole lot of other things that we probably don’t fully understand yet. With the ability to write DNA, to synthesize our own arbitrary stretches of A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s, we can create our own instructions for cellular proteins or we can encode sequences that would be “junk” to a cell but that we could read as a message. This week, George Church, Yuan Gao, and Sri Kosuri published a short paper demonstrating that not only could we encode a few phrases here and there, but write a whole book in DNA. The book, Church’s Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, which will be published using more traditional means this fall, includes 53,426 words, 11 jpgs, and one JavaScript program. The text and images were converted to html format and then read as bits, 1′s and 0′s that can be easily encoded into DNA: A or C for 0 and T or G for 1. Having two possible letters for each bit means that the sequence won’t end up with long stretches of any single letter, a challenge for chemical DNA synthesis. The perl code they used to covert bits to DNA is available in the paper’s supplementary information (PDF).

This is by far the largest amount of non-biological information synthesized and stored in DNA—a total of 5.27 megabits, way beyond the 7,920 bit record previously held by the Venter Institute’s watermarks in their chemically synthesized genome (written using an undisclosed code for each letter and punctuation mark)…..
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Written by physicsgg

August 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm


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