This 3D-Printed Bunny Could Be the Future of Data Storage

This 3D-Printed Bunny Could Be the Future of Data Storage


This rabbit contains the instructions for
how to replicate itself, just like all our living cells do. Even though it’s very clearly not alive,
its instructions are encoded into DNA and then embedded into this 3D-printed plastic
object. This… is an advanced proof of concept for
DNA as data storage. Think about it: just like ones and zeros are
the way that computers encode information, DNA base pairs do the same. But DNA offers more density. It obviously packs so much data—like, all
of the instructions for a human body— into the nucleus of a cell. And teams around the world have been demonstrating
that they’re able to encode hundreds of thousands of terabytes of digital data in
gram-quantities of DNA. Like can you picture a one-terabyte hard drive? Yeah, now picture hundreds of thousands of
those, and all of the information you could store on them—videos, photos, the whole
shebang—in just a few grams of biological material. So DNA offers quite an improvement on existing
digital data storage methods, like the chips, spinning discs, and magnetic tape that we’re
used to. And this rabbit is a first foray into what
these researchers are calling ‘the DNA of things’. So how exactly do you get DNA into a plastic
object like this? The scientists stored the instructions for
how to 3D print the plastic bunny in chunks of DNA. And then they enclosed that DNA in microscopic
glass beads, which protects the DNA from the heat of the 3D-printing process. Then the beads were embedded into liquid plastic, and that mixture was used to 3D print the bunny. When it’s done, you could take a tiny piece
of that rabbit—like, milligram quantities—and run it through a sequencer, decode the information
stored in the DNA, and voila: you now have the instructions to make another bunny. And that’s just what the researchers did! They repeated that process, creating five
generations of bunnies, if you will. And the team also showed that DNA from a bunny
that was stored for nine months showed no significant degradation of the data and could
still be used to make another bunny! The plastic rabbit is a cute and relatively simple example
of a concept that is pretty mind-bending. This same visionary team did this with a pair
of glasses, too. Using the same process, they stored the file
for a short movie in the lenses of a pair of perfectly ordinary glasses. That is some Bond-level stuff right there. And in addition to this tech having potential
in espionage, it also has a whole host of applications in medicine. Medications, or personal health items like
dental implants, could come equipped with information about their safety, uses, and
even about the person who needs them. Like you could have the entirety of your
medical records stored in your new fake tooth! In DNA!? This is all, of course, only possible if you
have the right DNA purification equipment, a portable DNA sequencer, tens of hours, and
then of course, the program that decodes the DNA into the digital information. Y’know, just little stuff. But teams all over the world are innovating
to bring down the cost and complexity of this tech, and to make it accessible for use in all
kinds of industries, like construction, pharmaceuticals, and electronics! It’s really just the start of innovation
in the exciting field of DNA data storage. Because we are producing, consuming, and storing more data than ever before in human history. As we advance our computing, and as expanding
population gains access to the internet and personal computers, that data volume isn’t
going down any time soon. We’re going to need better ways to store
it and to get it to each other. And it looks like co-opting nature’s best
existing data storage strategy just may be part of the solution. Maybe mother nature really does know best. If you haven’t seen our new show, Human,
you should definitely check it out. Not only because it’s great, but because we’re Human, and we have a bunch of different mechanisms that work together to keep our bodies functioning,
and this show talks all about them. If there’s a topic in particular you’d
want us to cover, let us know down in the comments, make sure to subscribe and thanks
for watching.