Watching Genes Mutate
Mutations can create tumors and all sorts of other mayhem, but only about 1% are deadly and the rest provide the engine of environmental adaptation and beneficial evolution. In bacteria the mutation rate is about one in 600 hours. Researchers know, because they infused bacteria with a protein that glows whenever a gene mutates then photographed them every few minutes. Science, 359, 1283-1286.

Life Isn't Limited to a Four-Letter Genetic Alphabet
All plants and animals use the same four bases to form their genetic code, but researchers at Scripps Research Institute have synthesized a strain of E coli bacterium with two additional bases, arbitrarily named X and Y. What's more, the altered DNA directs synthesis of proteins. What's the point of doing this? It could enable us to produce new protein-based drugs or to create new microorganisms that could target specific organs therapeutically or devour oil spills. And it also tells us that natural life may not be limited to the genetic code we're familiar with, both here and in other parts of the universe. Nature, Vol 551, 644-647.

A Practical DNA Hard Drive By 2019?
According to the text (p 10), DNA computing is in its infancy, hampered by technical challenges and cost; but the Boston-based company Catalog has just acquired $9M in funding and is promising a one-terabyte DNA hard drive (equivalent to 40 Blu-ray DVDs) in a gram-sized pellet by 2019. Key to their expected breakthrough is a new way of managing the DNA; rather than encoding a string of data onto a single DNA molecule—which would require massive amounts of costly DNA synthesis—the company plans to use fewer than 200 DNA molecules which can be combined in an exponential number of ways. You won't see this in your laptop; envisioned applications include data storage by companies and government agencies that need long-term storage rather than fast access to data, and for secure transport of data, for instance by intelligence agencies or through space to distant colonies. exome; BioRxiv, DOIi:; New Scientist, July 4, 2018.