DNA to Store Data Files?

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By Vittorio Hernandez | January 25, 2013 10:42 AM EST

The world cannot cope with the increase of data files and digital information going to the Internet and elsewhere against the storages available. The demand for storage increases and the costs for these storages become more and more expensive, but the money to purchase often grows at a slower pace.

It may seem strange that a person's DNA can actually store digital data inside it. This kind of breakthrough or technological leap can keep information in archives for thousands of years instead of keeping the data inside magnetic tapes and hard drives.

Similar to all other best ideas in the history of man, this one was born inside a pub. Nick Goldman and Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge were brainstorming of what could be the solution for keeping massive data that their research group generates all the time, and these data are required to be archived.

The few beers plus pondering minds have wondered if an artificially constructed DNA is a solution to store data. DNA has been used already to store information in the form of genomes by every living organism on earth. But the research for new developments about this method done to DNA is not yet perfected to all cases; problems always occur.

Mr. Goldman's new scheme has set a new record of 739.3 kilobytes for the amount of unique information encoded. And by viewing it in a larger scale, the world's digital information can all be stored into the back of a lorry.

One test recently done was the encoding of Shakespeare's Sonnet into DNA letters. The test has "downloaded" all 154 of the historical English poet on to the strands of synthetic DNA which is one proof of a potential solution to the global need for data storage.

The Process: It involves the conversion of the "ones" and "zeroes" of digital information into the four-letter alphabet of the DNA code which the four chemical bases - (A)denosine, (T)hymine, (C)ytosine, and (G)uanine. Then the machine "reads" the DNA molecules and recovers the encoded information.

The Problem: Cost is likely the problem for this procedure. The test done to Shakespeare's poem took two weeks to complete and $10,000 was used to perform it.

Hopefully, one day, the double helix called DNA will finally replace millions of CDs, DVDs and even Blu-rays to store the digital data on earth.

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