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Latest in Data Storage: Information Stored as DNA Molecules

Storing data in the same format as a DNA strip may solve the crisis of having ample storage in the future.


Though the advances in technology among the healthcare sector are impressive, the latest development does not involve turning people’s DNA into datasets. It does, however, allow for data to be stored in the form of a DNA molecule. This new method of data storage came out of a need for larger capacities of storage for the world’s information. 

According to biospace.com, we create 463 exabytes of data in one day. To put it in perspective, one exabyte equals over 1 billion gigabytes. Attempting to quantify the amount of data we have is nearly impossible, but the need for more storage is easy to see. Researchers and tech companies alike are working to introduce the DNA method as the storage medium that will make other long-term storage methods obsolete.

How Does DNA Storage Work?

A DNA strip is made up of long strings of chemical nucleotide bases represented by A, T, G, and C. These letters let the DNA be read and this produces proteins. In the same way, a computer stores bits called binary data in 1s and 0s. These bits are read by the computer and transferred into readable text or another type of file. What researchers did was have each letter in a DNA molecule represent two bits of information. 

In 2017, two doctors from the New York Genome Centre converted six files into strings of binary code and developed an algorithm known as DNA fountain to process information for coding. The strings were separated into droplets of DNA strings 200 base pairs long. The strands were then sent to a company to be synthesized or combined, into code. The code is processed back into binary bits by a computer program and read as the original data.

Who Can Use This Form of Storage?

Currently, this cutting-edge technology is still in development. Once it begins to gain traction and become a more obtainable storage method, it will likely be offered to those who need it most. This would include industries and companies with data ranging from gigabytes to petabytes. Some data needs to be stored for legal or regulatory reasons. Examples of these include:

  • Medical records
  • Historical government documents
  • Surveillance videos

In some cases, these types of files must be kept for a set period of time based on laws or internal regulations. While these industries would have the first crack at the technology, the overarching goal is to have DNA storage replace the current method for long term storage: magnetic tape.

What Does the Future Hold for DNA Data?

The biggest problem with this breakthrough in digital storage is the cost of synthesizing the DNA strands each time you need to process it into binary code. Microsoft has partnered with the University of Washington to produce an automated system to store and retrieve the data, relieving some of the work required to synthesize.

In 2019, DNA storage company, Catalog, coded DNA letters in different combinations called “identifiers” rather than in long strips and was able to assemble them in the order needed to encode the data. Another method in testing is producing a few molecules, copying them, and encoding different data in those patterns. Both methods would make the process more inexpensive.

One of the plans that may be implemented in the somewhat near future is creating an industrial-scale storage server service for IT companies, federal governments, and the entertainment industries. The larger entities will get more access before DNA data comes to market for the average consumer.

Any Data Storage Requires Professional Service

DNA can break and degrade over time and the data may become corrupt if the conversion and synthesizing aren’t performed properly. The technology is still in its early stages and there are issues like methodology and cost that need to be accounted for before it becomes the ultimate archiving and backup solution.

In the meantime, Secure Data Recovery performs tape data recovery, conversion services for your older media, and general data recovery on all storage media types. No matter how much data you may have stored, or what devices or operating systems you use to archive your information, Secure Data recovery is there with certified and professional service to ensure your data is recovered when a device fails. Call us at 1-800-388-1266 to learn about our many data recovery and storage services.

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