Although the concept of storing such data on DNA isn't new, a pair of researchers from Columbia University and the New York Genome Center has now used the technique to store an operating system, movie, and other files on biological molecules.
Church, who was not part of the new study, believes the immediate use of the DNA data storage is for archiving.
The 1948 study "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" by information theory founder Claude Shannon, which helped shape virtually all systems that store, process or transmit digital information. We spoke with Erlich about the results, and what they mean for the future of data storage. But whether the technology takes off may depend on its cost. Not only is it easy to read and write vast amounts of data on DNA, it's also exceptionally stable and can last for hundreds of thousands of years.
"DNA won't degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won't become obsolete-if it does, we have bigger problems", Erlich, a computer science professor at Columbia Engineering, said in a statement.
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But it was hard to encode more than a few hundred letters with data without it turning into an undecipherable mess of gobbledygook.
We have previously covered news concerning the potential and the development of DNA data storage here on HEXUS. Other approaches have done better.
Led by Yaniv Erlich, the team of engineers successfully stored and retrieved 214 pentabytes of data (214,000 gigabytes) into DNA. The secret of the new technique is that it essentially encodes files in DNA as very simple Sudoku puzzles, says study lead author Yaniv Erlich, a computational biologist at Columbia University in NY.
Embedded in the code of life, researchers have now encoded an 1895 French film, a computer virus and a $50 Amazon gift card.
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DNA is made of strands of molecules known as nucleotides: adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine, abbreviated A, T, C and G. Just as patterns of ink can represent letters of the alphabet, sequences of nucleotides can be used to encode data.
Recently, a team of scientist from the Columbia University has announced that the successful transfer of 2,146,816 bytes of information on DNA strand using a novel DNA manipulation technique.
To read the files, the scientists used DNA sequencing technology, followed by software that translated the DNA sequences into binary data.
The scientists also proved the DNA strands - and the embedded files - could be infinitely replicated through a polymerase chain reaction without creating any coding errors. What's more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% the theoretical limit.
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"I love the work", Kosuri, now a biochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, commented about the new experiment. He and colleagues showed that you could copy the encoded data as many times as you wish. The cost is likely to come down over time, but it still has a long ways to go, Erlich says. However, drawbacks such as the high cost, and relatively slow speeds, of DNA data writing and reading remain.