Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) contains the ‘code’ that programs all living organisms. The entire language consists of 4 unique letters: A,T,C and G. To put this in contrast, computers’ language is binary, it consists of 2 numbers; 0 and 1. This means that anything you do in a computer is powered by combinations of 0s and 1s. Similarly, distinct combinations of A,T,C and G make you who you are. The same way I can program what color this word is, DNA programs the color of your eyes, hair and skin.

Do you remember Facebook’s security breach that exposed data of 50 million users? This was caused by a bug in the code. Life’s code can also have bugs. These can affect physical appearance and health. You probably know about cancer and horrible consequences it brings. Most cancer types are the result of bugs in how DNA programs cell growth, division and death. Unclear instructions on how to carry these tasks cause cells to grow and divide much more rapidly than normal healthy cells. Cancerous cells begin to invade and steal resources from healthier cells. This is way this is such a hard disease to treat and cure.

Advances in technology allows us to program DNA the same way we program computer language. We can now make single letter changes at very specific locations. We can also insert entire pieces of code that you took from another organism; in theory we should be able to fix any genetic disease or even change our physical and intellectual characteristics. We still have a long way before we can safely do this in humans, but even if we could; should we be allowed to do it?

Scientist have been able to change the genetic code of micro-organisms to produce drugs that fight malaria, fuels that can power planes, oils and fragances and many more. The best part is, they all are biosynthesized using renewable compounds as the source input! It’s exciting to see how this technology will evolve in the next years. We still have a lot to learn about life’s language. Afterall, DNA has been around and evolving for over 4 billion years, the first computer program is less than 200 years old. Both languages share many similarities but in no way, I mean to put them on the same category. The language of life is by far more evolved, complex, unpredictable and beautiful. Afterall, one would not exist without the other.