Turning DNA into a hard drive

Silicon-based computers are fine for typing term papers and surfing the Web, but scientists want to make devices that can work on a far smaller scale, recording data within individual cells. One way to do that is to create a microscopic hard drive out of DNA, the molecule that already stores the genetic blueprints of all living things.

Stanford University bioengineer Drew Endy is a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology, which aims to turn the basic building blocks of nature into tools for designing living machines. This week, members of his lab reported in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences that they had figured out a way to turn DNA into a rewriteable data storage device that can operate within a cell. He spoke with The Times about the research.