by Swati Khandelwal
Technical Writer, Security Blogger and IT Analyst. She
is a Technology Enthusiast with a keen eye on the
Cyberspace and other tech related developments.
Did you know that 1 Gram of DNA
Store 1,000,000,000 Terabyte of Data
for 1000+ Years?
Just last year, Microsoft purchased 10 Million strands of
synthetic DNA from San Francisco
DNA synthesis startup called
Twist Bioscience and collaborated
with researchers from the University of Washington to focus on using
DNA as a data storage medium.
However, in the latest experiments, a pair of researchers from
Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC)
have come up with a new technique to store massive amounts of data
on DNA, and the results are marvelous.
The duo successfully stored around 2mb in data, encoding a total
number of six files, which include:
A full computer
An 1895 French
movie "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat"
A $50 Amazon gift
A computer virus
A Pioneer plaque
A 1948 study by
information theorist Claude Shannon
The new research (DNA
Fountain Enables a Robust and Efficient Storage Architecture),
which comes courtesy of Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski,
has been published in the journal Science.
But How Did
the Researchers Store Digital Data on DNA?
Movie Stored and Retrieved
from DNA Molecules
A copy of this
1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La
Ciotat," was encoded into synthetic DNA
molecules and later retrieved using a new
coding strategy developed by Yaniv Erlich
and Dina Zielinski at Columbia University
and New York Genome Center.
Calling their process a "DNA Fountain," the researchers first
compressed all the data into a single master archive and split it
into short strings of binary digits, made up of ones and zeros.
Next, the duo used an "erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain
codes" to randomly packaged the strings into droplets. Each droplet
contains a barcode in the sequence that helped the researchers
reassembling the file.
The researchers then,
"mapped the ones and
zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G,
C and T,"
...and ended up with a
digital list of 72,000 DNA strands that contained the encoded data.
This code was then sent in a text file to Twist Biosciences, the
same DNA synthesis startup from which Microsoft purchased 10 Million
strands of synthetic DNA last year, that then turned that digital
information into biological DNA.
"Two weeks later,
they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules.
To retrieve their
files, they used modern sequencing technology to read the DNA
strands, followed by software to translate the genetic code back
They recovered their
files with zero errors," the journal reads.
'Highest-Density Data-Storage Device Ever Created'
The researchers believe that DNA is the perfect storage medium - as
it is ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if
kept cool and dry - and suggests this is the,
data-storage device ever created."
Since the digital
universe is large and by 2020 containing nearly as many digital bits
as there are stars in the universe, the data will reach 44
zettabytes or 44 trillion gigabytes.
So, DNA data storage could help big organizations store an enormous
amount of information in a way that one can still be able to read it
in a hundred years.
However, cost is still an issue.
The researchers spent
around $7,000 to synthesize the 2MB of data and another $2,000 to
read that data. However, with the time this will change, so do not
expect this technique to go mainstream anytime soon.