Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington have set a new record for DNA storage. The pair was able to record 200 megabytes of data on the molecular strands. Once encoded, the data was smaller than the tip of a pencil.
How does storing digital data on DNA work? The data is translated from binary into the “letters” of the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand. Twist Bioscience, a startup that makes and uses synthetic DNA to store digital data, then translates the letters into actual molecules and sends them back to a computer.
Researchers read the data through RAM and use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to multiply or “amplify” the strands it wants to recover. Researchers can then take a sample, sequence or decode the DNA, and then run error correction computations.
The demand for storage is growing at an incredible rate and DNA could be the solution for this storage dilemma. Luis Henrique Ceze, a University of Washington associate professor of computer science and engineering and the university’s principal researcher on the project remarked, “DNA is an amazing information storage molecule that encodes data about how a living system works. We’re repurposing that capacity to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents.”
So what did the researchers include in this DNA data? The Microsoft-UW team stored digital versions of works of art, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in more than one hundred languages, the top one hundred books of Project Guttenberg, and the nonprofit Crop Trust’s seed database.
They even stored an OK Go music video. Karin Strauss, the principal Microsoft researcher on the project included the video because, “They’re very innovative and are bringing different things from different areas into their field and we feel we are doing something very similar.” Like Ok Go, we guess the UW-Microsoft team “Won’t Let You Down” when it comes to data