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DNA as Biomolecular Data Storage Medium

February 26, 2015       Curious Mind
DNA: SuperDense
Bio-Storage for Digital Data

DNA Bio-Storage Paves the Way for the
Next Breakthrough in Bio-Computers...

Storage Density for DNA Data Improved!

A bio-research team from the Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored approximately 700 terabytes of digital data in a single gram of DNA.  This is a huge breakthrough from previous attempts by a margin of a thousand as far as data density is measured.

Scientists have been experimenting with DNA as a potential storage medium for a long time.  The medium is dense enough for archival quality potential and even as a transportable medium:  (one bit per base--each base only a few atoms large).  DNA as a physical storage medium is measured by volume (beaker) rather than on a flat plane (hard disk).  The medium does not degrade over time.  DNA is extremely stable and can survive for eons in normal room conditions.  Modern lab equipment with microfluidic chips can decode sequenced molecular data in just a few hours.  For very-long-term archival, DNA data retrieval is tops on any data scientist's list of breakthrough standards.

Current data storage tech involves portable hard drives AND
high density DVDs for archival storage.  This kind of physical
 mediums eat up a lot of space compared with DNA.

Storing data in a strand of hair or in a patch of skin would be a very convenient method of transferring data securely and safely.

Biology Enabled as a Computer

In 2012, scientists from the Scripps Research and Technion created a simple Turing machine-like finite state automaton to successfully decode two images stored and encrypted within DNA.  Ehud Keinan  led a research team that basically dumped a coded mixture of molecules in a test tube and were able to extract information from the DNA vat via fluorescent markers. By adapting the functions of a computer into a molecule based bio-chemical process, the Scripps team were able to encrypt and decipher data on DNA.  Keinan notes that complex biological molecules activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical work.  Using this knowledge, the team encoded the data molecule by molecule and successfully tested retrieval using the same bio knowledge.

Biological Computer Advantage

Biomolecular computing devices are designed not to replace electronic computers. Keinan offers, “The main advantages of biomolecular computing devices over electronic computers have to do with other properties.”  Storage size in a secure medium that can be encrypted and retrieved safely is one breakthrough ideal that cannot be matched by current physical storage medium alternatives.  Several libraries worth of information can be stored and encrypted in DNA molecules safely and transported with no degradation in the medium.

The potential of DNA as an archival data storage medium can help us do everything, from transporting knowledge to off-world planets we explore in the future, to mapping the stars for space travel.  Expect a DNA storage device as a back-up hard drive soon for your personal or business computing needs.


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