Scientists are One Step Closer to Storing Data in DNA Strains

The way we think about storing data onto a physical medium may change a lot sooner than people anticipate. Scientists have attempted to create hard drive solutions out of DNA. To be more precise, they have successfully written data into DNA standards and retrieved the information with issues or errors. Quite an intriguing development, but what could be the wider implications of exploring this technology?

Can We Make Hard Drives Out of DNA?

It is a rather interesting idea to think about DNA as a way to store data we may use in the future. Even though DNA is the building block of our human bodies, very few people considered it to be used for anything other than genetics. Scientists of Columbia University and The New York Genome Center may soon turn that concept on its head, though. The researchers have made significant progress in this regard, that much is certain.

To be more specific, the researchers have put various bits of information into DNA strains so far. An entire computer operating system, as well as an Amazon gift card and various other files have been successfully hardcoded into these DNA strains. More importantly, the researchers were able to extract this information once again without any problems. That is quite a significant feat that should not be overlooked by any means.

Using DNA makes a lot of sense in this regard, as it is smaller than traditional media. It is possible to fit more data into one gram of DNA than onto a one-terabyte hard drive. Moreover, DNA is far more durable and less prone to wear and tear. However, no one knows for sure how much can be stored within a DNA strain, as scientists have to unlock its full potential. By mapping the bits of the flies to DNA nucleotides, it was capable of storing this information in a test-tube.

One could compare this process to how streaming services work. When someone plays a video on YouTube, they may experience some dropped packets in the process. Despite this loss, users can still continue to watch the video without issues. The same principle applies to extracting data from DNA, as it is based on using mathematical concepts from coding theory. An intriguing concept that warrants further investigation moving forward.

There are some positive and negative aspects of using DNA to store information, though. On the one hand, it is very easy to replicate DNA and all of the information it contains. Unfortunately, extracting information from a DNA strain means the storage “medium” will break down in the process. It is evident a solution needs to be found that creates new instances of said DNA as other parts are erased altogether.

It remains to be seen if genetic data storage will ever become a mainstream trend, though. So far, Microsoft is the only company actively exploring these solutions. It is expected it will take at least another decade before DNA will be used as a mainstream data storage solution, though. Then again, it took magnetic media years to gain mainstream traction as well. It will be interesting to see how this research progresses over the next few years.

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