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article imageMajor tech companies see DNA storage as the future

By Tim Sandle     Jul 16, 2017 in Science
Major technology companies, like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are investigating the use of DNA to store vast quantities of digitized data. Such data storage solutions would be retrievable thousands of years later.
DNA is a universal and fundamental data storage mechanism in biology and this highly evolved mechanism can be used to hold other forms of data too, by converting data into base four. To store data on DNA different scientific approaches are being considered (these are processes to store digital data in the base sequence of DNA). Some approaches involve the use of natural DNA in living organisms (such as bacteria); whereas other researchers are embarking on a synthesized route. An overview of scientific progress was recently published on Digital Journal:
READ MORE: DNA as a data storage medium: Progress and challenges
Physics simulation of 5 megabases of DNA forming loops and domains.
Physics simulation of 5 megabases of DNA forming loops and domains.
Courtesy of Adrian Sanborn, Erez Lieberman Aiden
DNA has a data density in orders of magnitude far higher than any conventional storage systems. Here just 1 gram of DNA able to represent close to 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. DNA is also robust; information can be retrieved thousands of years later, and DNA samples can be well-preserved by freezing. As well as different means of storage, some researchers are also considering people are living storage vehicles, carrying tiny fragments of data encoded DNA with them:
READ MORE: Scientists place a GIF image inside a living organism's DNA
Microsoft branch office.
Microsoft branch office.
Elekes Andor
Several technology firms are exploring the use of DNA storage. This takes the form of big players like Google Genomics working with biotech start-ups, as have Apple. Perhaps the biggest progress, based on industry reports, is coming from Microsoft. Microsoft is reportedly buying ten million strands of DNA from the biology startup company Twist Bioscience.
This is to investigate the use of genetic material to store data. Twist Bioscience has the ability to produce custom strings of DNA; these are sold to research laboratories so that code can be inserted. As Twist Bioscience states, this is a nod towards the future:
The newest information technology is also the world's oldest - DNA, filling the gap between archival technologies currently in use and enduring digital repositories of the future.
Photo 51 is the nickname given to an X-ray diffraction image of DNA. This picture is taken from the ...
Photo 51 is the nickname given to an X-ray diffraction image of DNA. This picture is taken from the program for the play running in London in 2015.
The technological challenges facing those investing in this emerging field are the costs; and the process of writing and reading the information. Twist Bioscience have made considerable advances with the writing process. The reading part requires genetic sequencing technologies. Good progress is being made, according to Microsoft researcher Doug Carmean. The scientist told TechCrunch: "The initial test phase with Twist demonstrated that we could encode and recover 100 percent of the digital data from synthetic DNA."
More about Dna, Dna storage, Data storage, digital data
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