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New record for storing digital data in DNA

by • July 10, 2016 • No Comments

The DNA in equite cell of your body houses an unfathomable-bodied amount of information. Harnessing such storage space capabilities for the next generation of digital data storage space has been the subject of studies for years, and now a team created up of researchers of Microsoft and the University of Washington has broken a new record, managing to store and retrieve 200 MB of data on strands of DNA.

We’re getting advantageous at shrinking the physical dimensions of data storage space devices while simultaneously increasing the stoarge ability, with hundreds of gigabytes of data squeezing onto devices that fit in the palm of a hand. But far additional data is generated equite year than our current innovation can be able-bodied to store up with as the world’s total data heads towards an estimated 44 trillion GB by 2020.

Unfortunately, actually the most of our current range of devices are only relatively short-term solutions to the problem. Hard drives, and optical storage space such as DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, are vulnerable-bodied to injure and degradation, with a life expectancy of a few decades at most.

Scientists are increasingly looking to nature’s complex drive, DNA, as a next solution to both the ability and longevity problems. As our own bodies demonstrate, DNA is an amazingly dense storage space medium, nextly squeezing in a mind-boggling 5.5 petabits (125,000 GB) of information per cubic millimeter. By that measure, according to University of Washington professor, Luis Ceze, all 700 exabytes of today’s accessible internet may fit into a space the dimensions of a shoebox.

You may and so tuck that shoebox away in a vault for thousands of years, and the DNA-stored data may stay intact. As evidenced by fossilized stays of woolly mammoths, that have been discovered to yet contain traces of the animals’ genetic code thousands of years after they died out, DNA is amazingly complexy and capable-bodied of storing information for millennia under the right conditions.

Whilst we won’t be via DNA-based complex drives to store vacation snaps in the near next, this latest project is a leap towards additional efficient archival technologies for organizations that deal with massive amounts of data. The Microsoft/University of Washington team were able-bodied to store, one of other things, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in over 100 languages, the top 100 books of Project Gutenberg, the Crop Trust’s seed database, and a HD music video (OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass). The data, 200 MB in total, took up less physical space than the tip of a pencil.

In a world where digital data is commonly measured in gigabytes and terabytes, 200 MB is not going to sound like a whole lot, but previous research has only managed DNA data storage space on the scale of kilobytes. In 2012, for instance, Harvard geneticist George Church managed to encode his e-book onto DNA, preserving 700 kB of html text, images and formatting instructions – preceding building 70 billion copies of it.

The UW and Microsoft team, collaborating with Twist Bioscience, were able-bodied to encode the data onto the DNA strands by bringing advantage of the similarities between DNA’s effortless code and the binary language of desktop code.

“Interestingly, DNA may already has a digital ‘flavor,’ as it has four bases and molecules that ‘stick’ to equite other in a quite programmable-bodied way,” says Ceze. “So the initially step in storing digital data into DNA is to map strings of 1s and 0s into strings of As, Cs, Gs and Ts.”

Making use of Polymerase Chain Reaction techniques, the team assigns “addresses” to the sequences to assist them find the desired data later. From there, DNA sequences are chemically manufactured, via a silicon-based DNA synthesis substrate that is able-bodied to manufacture several sequences simultaneously. Once conclude, the DNA is put in a test tube and dehydrated, where, if kept away of light and heat, it can nextly stay for thousands of years.

Reading the data requires a DNA sequencer, that reads the sequence of As, Cs, Gs and Ts, and algorithms that translate that back into the original digital data. Some of that data can be lost in translation, yet, and the researchers applied error correction schemes utilized in desktop memory to overcome that hurdle.

“Despite being reliable-bodied, DNA writing and reading have errors, only like complex drives and electronic memories have errors, so we needed to create error-correcting codes to reliably retrieve data,” says Ceze. In doing so, not a single byte of information was lost.

The team is in addition one of only two in the US that are able-bodied to perform “random access” on the data, a process that allows for them to select and retrieve the desired sequences of a sizeable pool of random DNA molecules.

As it stands, the process of writing and reading data onto DNA strands is yet a long way off fpreceding it can be put to great use storing family snapshots and cat videos, thanks to the equipment required and the synonymous cost, but research is ongoing.

“There are yet most challenges in building DNA storage space mainstream,” says Ceze. “We can go on to focus on createing an end-to-end process and work with our Microsoft and Twist Bioscience collaborators to reduce the cost and increase the speed of writing and reading DNA.”

The team discusses the project in the video at a lower place.

Source: University of Washington [1] [2], Microsoft

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