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article imageSuper-efficient computers will use DNA to store data

By Tim Sandle     Jul 13, 2016 in Technology
The quest to learn more about the mysteries of DNA is not only important for areas like genetic diseases, it could also influence how technologists design the next generation of efficient computer storage.
The characterization of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the incredibly complex molecule responsible for most genetic functions in all living organisms, may help to unlock the secret to more powerful computers. This relates to developing computers at the nano-scale.
Controlled Environments magazine has reported on research where technologists have become inspired by the remarkable ability of DNA to self-repair. This aspect, until fairly recently, has been a mystery to scientists. The self-repair function helps avoid, in many cases, the formation of certain cancers within human cells.
Scientists at Sheffield University found the mechanism for DNA repair, which relates to a special protein. In humans, alkyltransferase proteins reverse any damage to modified bases (recurring base pair make up the double helical structure of DNA), converting them back to guanine.
So, how might this relate to computers? According to Ishaan Gera’s overview in the Financial Express, MIT researchers have discovered a way to automate the DNA making process. This is based on an algorithm called DAEDALUS (DNA Origami Sequence Design Algorithm for User-defined Structures). This algorithm helps to build nano-particles of various shapes.
This process is inspiring computer engineers to enhance the storage capacity of computer devices using nanotechnology. In 2016, a researcher developed the world’s smallest diode from DNA. In parallel, Microsoft has purchased strands of DNA from a company called Twist Bioscience.
The Microsoft move is because DNA could be the means for future data storage, to be ready for the zettabyte era (a zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros — a colossally large number.) It may sound like ‘science fiction’ but DNA could be the answer to storing terabytes of data on single strands. Such data could be preserved for thousands of years. The process would involve incorporating biomolecules as an integral part of computer design.
In addition to Microsoft, SAGE Engineering (@SAGEEngineering) has tweeted about another company looking at the same technology: "Engineers at @SandiaLabs investigate DNA as a data storage medium. Its advantage is that it doesn't decay."
The main obstacles are likely to relate to any concerns that DNA is modified and then used for other purposes, like genetic adaptation.
More about DNA computer, Dna storage, Computers, zettabyte
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