A new research has shown that DNA strands are capable of storing an innumerable amount of data. It is more than any hard drive or magnetic tape memory and provides a feasible solution to the age-old problem of storing all data in one place.
According to the Columbia University, the researchers show that an extremely reliable algorithm called "DNA fountain" for streaming video on a mobile phone can be used to unlock DNA's full potential of storing data by squeezing more information into its four basic nucleotides. In a recent recovery of a 430000-year old human ancestor's bones, it was found that DNA is the ideal storage medium as it is ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years when kept in a cool and dry place.
The researchers compressed six files, including a full computer operating system, a French Film from 1985, a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a "Pioneer Plaque" and a 1948 research article and put it into a master file. They split up the data in strings of binary code and mapped them into droplets and put them in four nucleotide bases in DNA, namely A, G, C and T. The "DNA fountain" algorithm added a barcode to each droplet to recover the data files later.
According to Science Mag, the researchers created a digital list of 72000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long. They sent them to a California-based start-up firm named "Twist Bioscience" for synthesizing. Two weeks later, the researchers received by mail a vial with a speck of DNA encoding their files. Modern DNA sequencing technology decoded them and then they were fed into a computer to translate the genetic code back to binary and rearrange the initial six files.
The approach, reportedly, worked so well that there were no errors found in the newly created files. It enabled the researchers to make innumerable error-free copies of their files via a DNA copying technique called "polymerase chain reaction". The researchers claim to have encoded 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, which is 60% better than any previous group and 85% above the theoretical limit.
The researchers have estimated the cost of synthesizing 2 megabytes of data at $7000, and an additional $2000 to read it. They have also said that the technology is not yet ready for large scale usage and will require more time to make it speedier.