Data Science - Big Data History

DNA Data Storage – 2012 AD

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DNA Data Storage

George Church (b. 1954), Yuan Gao (dates unavailable), Sriram Kosuri (dates unavailable), Mikhail Neiman (1905–1975)

“In 2012, George Church, Yuan Gao, and Sriram Kosuri, all with the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Genetics, announced that they had successfully stored 5.27 megabits of digitized information in strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the biological molecule that is the carrier of genetic information. The stored information included a 53,400-word book, 11 JPEG images, and a JavaScript program. The following year, scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) successfully stored and retrieved an even larger amount of data in DNA, including a 26-second audio clip of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 154 Shakespeare sonnets, the famous Watson and Crick paper on DNA structure, a picture of EMBL-EBI headquarters, and a document that described the methods the team used to accomplish the experiment.

Although first demonstrated in 2012, the concept of using DNA as a recording, storage, and retrieval mechanism goes back to 1964, when a physicist named Mikhail Neiman published the idea in the Soviet journal Radiotekhnika.

To accomplish this storage and retrieval, first a digital file represented as 1s and 0s is converted to the letters A, C, G, and T. These letters are the four chemical bases that make up DNA. The resulting long string of letters is then used to manufacture synthetic DNA molecules, with the sequence of the original bits corresponding to the sequence of nucleic acids. To decode the DNA and reconstitute the digital file, the DNA is put through a sequencing machine that translates the letters back into the original 1s and 0s of the original digital files. Those files can then be displayed on a screen, played through a speaker, or even run on a computer’s CPU.

In the future, DNA could allow digital archives to reliably store vast amounts of digitized data: a single gram of DNA has the potential to store 215 million gigabytes of data, allowing all the world’s information to be stored in a space the size of a couple of shipping containers.”

SEE ALSO Magnetic Tape Used for Computers (1951), DVD (1995)

To store information in DNA, a digital file represented as 1s and 0s is converted to the letters A, C, G, and T, the four chemical bases that make up DNA.

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