DNA Strands Offer A Natural Alternative To Data Storage

Biotechnology could store information for thousand of years without any damage.

For anyone who doesn’t know, DNA is one of the most effective natural databases in existence, containing the blueprint for the human body and the countless complicated components that go with it. Scientists are now getting closer to unlocking the secrets of how DNA stores its data, something that could provide a whole new way to store the never-ending stream of digital information created everyday.

Published in the journal Nature, scientists were able to store an audio clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a photograph, a copy of Francis Crick and James Watson’s famous “double helix” scientific paper on DNA from 1953 and Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. They later were able to retrieve them with 99.99% accuracy.

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Talking about the experiment, Nick Goldman, lead author of the paper and a computational biologist at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England said:

All we’re doing is adapting what nature has hit upon—a very good way of storing information.

Although previous attempts to store information have been successful, like encoding trademarks in cells and poetry in bacteria, these organisms eventually die. DNA on the other hand, isn’t alive, which means it could potentially sit dormant for thousands of years without any damage happening the data stored within.

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Another significant advantage of DNA over traditional data storage methods is that it can store a much larger amount of information on a much smaller surface area – a cup of DNA theoretically could store about 100 million hours of high-definition video.

While the cost of the technology means it might still be a long way from being commercially available, it’s clear that science is slowly putting together the pieces that will result in a groundbreaking way to store information.

European Bioinformatics Institute

Images by Josh*M and Sean Dreilinger

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