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Hiding messages in DNA microdots

A Correction to this article was published on 16 December 1999


The microdot is a means of concealing messages (steganography)1 that was developed by Professor Zapp and used by German spies in the Second World War to transmit secret information2. A microdot (“the enemy's masterpiece of espionage”2) was a greatly reduced photograph of a typewritten page that was pasted over a full stop in an innocuous letter2. We have taken the microdot a step further and developed a DNA-based, doubly steganographic technique for sending secret messages. A DNA-encoded message is first camouflaged within the enormous complexity of human genomic DNA and then further concealed by confining this sample to a microdot.

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Figure 1: Genomic steganography.


  1. Kahn, D. The Codebreakers (Scribner, New York, 1996).

  2. Hoover, J. E. Reader's Digest 48, 1–6 (April 1946).

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  3. Clayton, P. T. et al. Arch. Dis. Child 79, 109–115 (1998).

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Clelland, C., Risca, V. & Bancroft, C. Hiding messages in DNA microdots. Nature 399, 533–534 (1999).

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