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Researchers Cram 700TB of Data Into One Gram of DNA

By - Source: Dvice | B 36 comments

Could the key to unlimited storage be found in our very own DNA?

Despite decades of research, Deoxyribonucleic Acid, better known as DNA, is still considered to be one of the most complex structures in existence. Naturally, scientists have been working hard to fully harness the unique powers of DNA.

One potential use of DNA is its potential to store digital data. Because of its extremely dense structure, stability and survivability, DNA is an ideal candidate for massive data storage. While many extreme storage mediums need to be kept in strict temperature environments, DNA is able to survive for thousands of years at room temperature.

Taking full advantage of its properties, Harvard researchers George Church and Sri Kosuri have successfully stored 700 terabytes of data into a single gram of DNA.

Storing Digital Information in DNA

Surprisingly, the process was somewhat similar to traditional storage devices. While standard digital storage devices encode fragments of binary data onto hard drive platters, the DNA storage process synthesizes strands and encodes binary values onto each of its four DNA bases (TGAC). To read the stored data, all you would have to do is sequence the unique strands of DNA - in a similar fashion as sequencing the human genome.

While this method may be capable of storing staggering amounts of data, synthesizing and sequencing DNA is no simple task. While modern lab equipment has certainly evolved over the years, DNA reading and writing would be a costly and lengthy process. Although this suggests DNA should be used for archival purposes, who knows what the future holds.

 

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  • 17 Hide
    chuckydb , August 27, 2012 7:58 PM
    pacioliDNA gets broken down very fast by microbes.I wonder how they can prevent them from getting at the DNA?


    Well, if the data magically gets transformed by a virus, that will help me explain all that 700TB of po...
  • 11 Hide
    mikewong , August 27, 2012 8:04 PM
    Ok, so the process is costly and lengthy for reading writing to a DNA storage. What if they use a simpler and bigger version of a DNA? I don't mind carrying 700 TB in the size of a.... 3.5" HDD.
  • 10 Hide
    bobusboy , August 27, 2012 8:42 PM
    Forget cloud storage: You could literally keep all of your personal information on you at all times
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    pacioli , August 27, 2012 7:45 PM
    DNA gets broken down very fast by microbes.
    I wonder how they can prevent them from getting at the DNA?
  • 17 Hide
    chuckydb , August 27, 2012 7:58 PM
    pacioliDNA gets broken down very fast by microbes.I wonder how they can prevent them from getting at the DNA?


    Well, if the data magically gets transformed by a virus, that will help me explain all that 700TB of po...
  • 6 Hide
    Johmama , August 27, 2012 7:58 PM
    This is really interesting. That is an insane amount of data in such a little volume of material. And it's DNA no less. Just the thought that we can write information onto DNA and read it back is mind-blowing. That would be really cool if people wrote to DNA instead of HDD's and SSD's in the future. (Probably not, but one can fantasize; this sounds very sci-fi-like).
  • 11 Hide
    mikewong , August 27, 2012 8:04 PM
    Ok, so the process is costly and lengthy for reading writing to a DNA storage. What if they use a simpler and bigger version of a DNA? I don't mind carrying 700 TB in the size of a.... 3.5" HDD.
  • 4 Hide
    Verrin , August 27, 2012 8:07 PM
    If spintronics ever proves viable, we might still get it to write huge amount of data in an even smaller volumes of space yet.
  • 8 Hide
    twelch82 , August 27, 2012 8:28 PM
    JohmamaThis is really interesting. That is an insane amount of data in such a little volume of material. And it's DNA no less. Just the thought that we can write information onto DNA and read it back is mind-blowing. That would be really cool if people wrote to DNA instead of HDD's and SSD's in the future. (Probably not, but one can fantasize; this sounds very sci-fi-like).


    It's really not that surprising to me, because the parallels between how life works and how computers work seem extremely strong. If you think about it in the context of computer code, even the similarities in DNA among different living organisms make sense. Most of the core code will be similar and shared, regardless of the task the program performs.

    Maybe it is no coincidence that humans developed computer technology because it reflects how we ourselves work, and consequently, also how we think.
  • 4 Hide
    twelch82 , August 27, 2012 8:29 PM
    I also think that at some point, we will be able to produce a debugger for DNA.

    It will never be an easy task, similar to how it would not be an easy task to figure out how a large complex program like Windows 7 works without having access to the source code, but I believe it will all make sense when we can fully reverse-engineer it.
  • 6 Hide
    viridiancrystal , August 27, 2012 8:35 PM
    They could store all of the 2011 digital world in 4 grams of DNA O.o

    That is the same weight as a teaspoon of sugar. Wow.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 27, 2012 8:36 PM
    Perhaps, human DNA contains volumes of stored data, information or messages from our creator(s), if you believe in creationism.
  • 10 Hide
    bobusboy , August 27, 2012 8:42 PM
    Forget cloud storage: You could literally keep all of your personal information on you at all times
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , August 27, 2012 8:48 PM
    Send me a hard drive based on this technology or it didn't happen.
  • 3 Hide
    thecolorblue , August 27, 2012 9:09 PM
    mikewongOk, so the process is costly and lengthy for reading writing to a DNA storage. What if they use a simpler and bigger version of a DNA? I don't mind carrying 700 TB in the size of a.... 3.5" HDD.

    The size of DNA is the size of DNA... there is no larger version.
    The only difference is the length of the DNA chain... but a shorter span of DNA would carry less information. For all practical purposes, there is no difference in size between what would store 1 kilobyte of information vs 100000 terabyte of information. It's all ridiculously tiny.
  • 8 Hide
    freggo , August 27, 2012 9:12 PM
    Data Mutation anyone ?

    You store a bunch of chick flicks in your DNA memory and a few years later when you play them back they all mutated into Zombie movies.

    OK, had too much silly juice again :-)
  • 9 Hide
    ddemon , August 27, 2012 9:14 PM
    I'm just imagining getting up in the morning and instead of turning the computer on I would be feeding it, making sure it has water, cleaning it's litter tray, giving it a pat on the head and then asking it to checking my facebook ....lol
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 27, 2012 9:36 PM
    DNA in solution does not survive for thousands of years. It undergoes spontaneous decomposition. It is for a very good reason that our cells are armed with a variety of repair processes to maintain their DNA's integrity.
  • 2 Hide
    bin1127 , August 27, 2012 9:40 PM
    If they mixed up the DNA sample in someone's gene therapy we could have walking libraries. They can call it the super librarian serum.
  • 0 Hide
    master_chen , August 27, 2012 9:41 PM
    I wonder what Johnny (The Mnemonic) would've said...
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 27, 2012 9:44 PM
    Pretty soon humans would be able to have personal copies of all the digital information in the world. Wikipedia would be rendered "idle".
  • 5 Hide
    koga73 , August 27, 2012 9:49 PM
    Ha getting a computer "virus" would now have a whole new meaning
  • -1 Hide
    master_chen , August 27, 2012 10:47 PM
    mechanusPretty soon humans would be able to have personal copies of all the digital information in the world.

    "I carry all my porn with me".
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