Scientists Make Storage of Information Possible in Synthesized DNA

By Wednesday, January 23, 2013 0 , , Permalink 0

With billions of bytes of data being generated every day, there is a challenge in terms of cost and space requirements that companies face when it comes to data archival. Hard drives and tape drives are currently being used to store data but one has the drawback of need of constant supply of power while the other degrades over time.

“This challenge has focused some interest on DNA as an attractive target for information storage because of its capacity for high-density information encoding, longevity under easily achieved conditions and proven track record as an information bearer”, notes the abstract of a paper published on Nature.com.

Scientists have pondered over the possibility of using DNA to store data as it is already known that information stays intact in DNA for thousands of years without degrading or requiring any form of power. “We already know that DNA is a robust way to store information because we can extract it from bones of woolly mammoths, which date back tens of thousands of years, and make sense of it,” says Nick Goldman of EMBL-EBI notes phys.org.

Up until now storage of data in DNA has been a challenge as it has been only possible to synthesize DNA in short strings and both reading and writing DNA are error prone. But, this is about to change as Nick Goldman and Ewan Birney of EMBL-EBI have created a coding mechanism that solves these problems.

To check if their code works, the duo sent out computer files equivalent to 739 kilobytes of hard-disk storage. A California-based company Agilent Technologies, Inc. synthesized the DNA out of the files sent by the researchers and when the sample DNA was sent back, the scientists were able to reconstruct the original files with 100% accuracy.

The DNA based storage model holds a lot of potential given the longevity of stored data without the requirement of supply of any kind of sustenance energy. The model may not be available commercially any time soon as there are quite a few things that need to be looked into.