细菌也能储存资料? DNA成为随身硬盘指日可待!

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科技进步日行千里,电脑领域的大数据分析,也成为现今许多研究及医学进展的支柱。身处在资讯爆炸的时代,如何处理、储存资料便成为一大课题。然而,现有的储存方式显然还不能满足科学家们的需求,现在,他们把脑筋动到了活生生的细菌身上!

细菌的免疫机制成为储存数据的好方法

来自哈佛的遗传学家Seth Shipman及Jeff Nivala利用最新的基因修编技术CRISPR/CAS系统,将资料编码写入细菌的基因之中。CRISPR/CAS系统原本是细菌用来保护自己的一套免疫系统,当细菌遭受到病毒的攻击时,便会利用CRISPR/CAS系统来辨认病毒的DNA片段,并且将部分的病毒DNA储存在自己的基因序列之中,当下次再遇到病毒时,就可以利用储存的片段来辨认病毒,并且启动防御机制,防止病毒的感染。科学家利用这点特性,将想要储存的资料编写成一连串基因密码,并且在资料的前后加上一些病毒的基因序列,利用这个人工合成的‘‘假病毒’’来感染细菌,当细菌启动CRISPR/CAS系统时,就能将我们要储存的讯息保存在细菌的DNA当中了,而这些讯息也能跟著细菌复制繁殖,一代代地被保存下去。

 

DNA可以长久且稳定的保存资料

利用细菌保存的数据资料,只要透过基因序列分析的方式,就可以读取储存在内的讯息,看似为一个稳定而且可以长久保存的好方法,然而还是有些困难需要克服。一个国字大约需要2位元的空间来储存,一个大肠杆菌大约只能储存几个句子的资讯而已,这也是科学家需要解决的难题之一。在2017年初,Yaniv Erlich 和 Dina Zielinski两位科学家在<<Science>>发表了一项研究,利用单纯的DNA,成功储存大量数据。他们先将要储存的资料转为二进位的讯息,再利用人工合成的方式,将讯息转化成为DNA序列储存,而当他们反过来,将DNA解码成为原来的资料时,竟然跟储存的文件一模一样,完全没有任何误差。他们已经能够利用DNA储存一部电影、一份研究论文,甚至是整套电脑作业系统。利用DNA储存资料的有个很大的优点,就是轻便,每公克的DNA可以储存约215 PB(Petabyte)的资料,换算一下,只需要4公克的DNA就可以储存全世界一整年的数据资料呢! 另外,DNA的保存期限远远超过现在使用的各种储存工具,它能够长久且完整的保存数据资料,或许,再过不久我们都可以自己合成属于我们的资料DNA了呢!

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