In this age of technology, data organizing and systems are vital in keeping the efficiency and advancements of technology snowballing. Researchers at Newcastle University suggest how we can turn DNA into data structures that are green-by-design that will organize data like, or even better, than the computer systems we use today.

Understanding DNA

DNA Extraction
(Photo: DNA Extraction/ WikiCommons)

Deoxyribonucleic acid or better known as DNA, according to Nature, is a complex molecule containing all the vital information needed to build and maintain an organism. Every living thing, no matter the size, has DNA embedded in each of its cells. In fact, almost every cell in any multicellular organism has a full set of DNA required for the creation and survival of the organism.

On the other hand, the nucleic acid has more functions than simply specifying the structures and functions of living organisms. It also acts as the primary unit of heredity in all types of organisms. In short, every time an organism reproduces, a portion of its DNA gets passed along to its offspring.

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DNA-Based Data Structures, the Future of Data Organization

Researchers led by a team from the School of Computing at Newcastle University created new DNA data structures that can store and recall information in an organized way from DNA molecules.

The researchers looked at how these complicated structures interact with nucleic acid-based computer circuits. In the study published in the journal Nature Communications, titled "A Last-in First-out Stack Data Structure Implemented in DNA," scientists presented an in vitro implementation of stack data structures utilizing DNA polymers.

Stack systems were developed as DNA chemical reaction systems that can record various combinations of two different DNA signals, binary-like 1s and 0s, and release the signals into solutions in a reversed order to be re-recorded.

The linear data structure of the stack follows a set order wherein the operations are performed, stored, and retrieved via DNA single strand in a last-in, first-out order by truncating and building DNA 'polymers', or long-chain protein structures.

Professor Natalio Krasnogor, the lead author of the study, said that our civilization is hungry for data, and all information processing systems thirst for having strong environmental impacts, citing that digital technologies are polluting more than the aviation industry, with top 7000 data centers across the globe consuming roughly 2% of the global electricity output, and the devastating environmental impacts of some cryptocurrencies, reports ScienceDaily.

Dr. Annunziata Lopiccolo, the co-author of the study and a research associate at Newcastle University, added that if society begins to think about data storage, the immediate picture is electronic microchips and other technologies. However, in recent years, biologists have challenged our notions of data storage, demonstrating that DNA nature is a reliable and resilient medium as quaternary data storage than binary.

The recent experimental DNA data system is a proof of principle that DNA chemistry can, in fact, be used as a novel dynamic data structure to store two types of DNA signals. Although more research is needed to determine the best way to achieve and access these DNA-based data, the recent study highlights the potential of the technology.

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