Researchers encode entire ebook in DNA strands

August 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Companies are offering hard drives these days with capacities measured in terabytes. That’s amazing when you think about where we were just a few years ago, but hard drives have nothing on the data storage capacity of DNA. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have managed to encode an entire book in DNA to prove that information can be stored and recovered at high density using the molecule.

DNA is a helical molecule that contains the genetic information in nearly all organisms on Earth. The spiral backbone of DNA is made from phosphate and sugars, but the genes that make us who and what we are come from the arrangement of nitrogen bases on the scaffolding. Adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine are the AGCT letters you’re probably familiar with. The nucleotides are read in set of three, called codons, to make up genes. The Harvard study, however, treated them as binary bits.

Each of the bases was taken to refer to either a 0 or a 1 (T and G = 1, A and C = 0). George Church, a member of the Harvard research team happened to have a draft of his unfinished novel handy, so this 5.27MB ebook was encoded with DNA. The resulting data store was made up of 54,898 DNA strands, each of which were 159 bases long. to get the data back, standard genetic sequencers were used to decide the DNA.

The study shows that DNA is an incredibly dense storage medium, though it is slow to encode. Just 1 gram of DNA can store roughly 700TB of data. Granted, 1 gram of DNA is actually a lot of nucleic acid, but you’d still need 233 3TB drives to match that capacity. DNA also has the advantage of being reparable by enzymatic activity with a high degree of accuracy. Data could persist for a long time in a living system. Maybe someday you’ll be able to carry around your music collection under your skin.

via ExtremeTech

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!