Computer OS, short movie successfully stored in DNA

DNA double helix

Pushing the Theoretical Limits of DNA Data Storage

Recently, a team from the said University was successful in storing 214 petabytes worth of computer information on DNA molecules using a novel DNA manipulation technique and an advanced computer algorithm.

Humanity has a data storage problem: More data were created in the past 2 years than in all of preceding history. IBM estimates 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. It is more than 8 times as dense as former work. Isn't this fantastic? Erlich argued that DNA is unable to degrade in time like CDs and tapes do, and it will not become obsolete.

It's often called the "blueprint of life", and for obvious reasons.

Of course, the process is not that easy because not all DNA sequences are robust enough, said Erlich.

Computer scientists are turning to microbiology to design better computers capable of storing humanity's ever-growing collection of digital data. Additionally, DNA can be stable for a long time as a recent study showed which recovered DNA from 430,000-year-old human ancestor found in a cave in Spain.

All the files were compressed into a single master file then split into short strings of binary code, all 1s and 0s. "Then, we synthesized these nucleotides and stored the molecules in a test-tube", Erlich explained in an interview with ResearchGate. They devised an algorithm called a DNA fountain, which randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, to which they added extra tags to help reassemble them in the proper order later. When translating the binary into base pair sequences, the algorithm is able to drop nucleotide sequences that are more likely to lead to read errors and replace them with others.


"Two weeks later, they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules", the school wrote. What's more, not all data stored in DNA can be retrieved successfully. This may be the highest-density data-storage technique developed yet, Erlich says.

Erlich didn't stop there.

"I think this is essentially the definitive study that shows you can [store data in DNA] at scale". The data recovery was error free and a virtually unlimited number of copies of their DNA files could be made using the polymerase chain reaction, which is "a standard DNA copying technique".

The researchers reported their findings in the Thursday (March 2nd) edition of the journal Science.

The main barrier at the moment of bringing this into commercialisation is cost as the synthesising of the DNA cost them $7,000, and another $2,000 to retrieve it. Sequencing DNA might become as cheap as running electricity through transistors at some point in the not so distant future.

Church, who was not part of the new study, believes the immediate use of the DNA data storage is for archiving. This time, it's in a single gram of DNA. Instead, DNA might be our best solution for archiving the troves of data that are amounting to insane quantities with each passing day.

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