Scientists Experiment With Storing Computer Data In DNA

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DNA molecules use biological codes to store genetic information, but a team of scientists in NY has unveiled a new technique that can allow humans to use DNA for storing human-generated data.

Scientists have been storing digital data in DNA since 2012, when Harvard University geneticists George Church, Sri Kosuri, and colleagues encoded a 52,000-word book in thousands of snippets of DNA.

Although the perspective of using living molecules as storage environments is not entirely something new under the sun only recently were scientists able to compress computer information efficiently enough in order to fit in a DNA strand.

So what did the duo decide to use to test their method?

These included an 1895 French film called Arrival of a train at La Ciotat, a full computer operating system, a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque from the Voyager missions and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon.

Overall 72,000 DNA strands were created and startup Twist Bioscience converted the data. So, DNA storage might instead be used for archival purposes until the performance bottleneck can be broken.

Scientists believe that using microbiology might help them store computer files in DNA.




One way to slash costs is to go for "quick and dirty" DNA synthesis approaches that are more error-ridden, Erlich says.

They first compressed the files into a master file and split the data into short strings of binary code, made up of ones and zeros.

Erlich explained how DNA is a better option than the current ones we already have. Two weeks later, Erlich received a vial containing DNA which encoded all of his previous work.

When you thought that blue-rays and memory sticks are going to be the most efficient storing environment you're going to use, a team of researchers from the Columbia University proved that biology beats technology in matters of love and, not to mention, information storage. For comparison, the brain's memory storage capacity is estimated at about 2.5 petabytes.

To read the files, the scientists used DNA sequencing technology, followed by software that translated the DNA sequences into binary data.

They also demonstrated that a virtually unlimited number of copies of the files could be created with their coding technique by multiplying their DNA sample through polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and that those copies, and even copies of their copies, and so on, could be recovered error-free. It's data storage just like what we do with hard drives, but with much higher potential density. But none has been able to store more than half of what researchers think DNA can actually handle, about 1.8 bits of data per nucleotide of DNA. They were left with the original files, all perfectly intact. It cost $7,000 to synthesize the DNA and another $2,000 to read it.

However, before any DNA data storage system can be created and used in computer systems, the cost needs to be reduced.

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