DNA For Data Storage

DNA data storage is the next step from storing our data on hard disks and clouds. Scientists have been doing research on how to store digital data on DNA, as this protein is extremely small but can pack and store a ton of information.

One gram of DNA is able to store around 214 Petabytes of data, and four grams of DNA is enough to store a year of the whole world’s accumulated digital data. DNA is also more durable than other forms of data storage, and if the information is stored correctly, it can last for centuries without being corrupted. Researchers have recently been able to store and retrieve files in DNA, an advancement that has brought about a lot of optimism in the development of this new technology.

DNA has four segments- adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The concept behind storing data on DNA is known as DNA fountain. Using this method, scientists were able to store and retrieve a movie, an operating system, a computer virus and a gift card from DNA strands. The first thing they did was encode the files into smaller bits of the same length which did not overlap. These bits were then packaged into the desired number of short messages, which are known as droplets. The droplets were then added bit by bit into a binary field. In simple terms, the sequences of the nucleotides are translated from genetic code to binary code, which can be read by a computer.

Although it has been proven possible, the process of storing data on DNA has its downfalls. The first is that not all DNA sequences are equal. The sequences have to be of equal length so that the files aren’t lost or corrupted. DNA also tends to have some long undesirable and repetitive sequences that may hinder the data transfer process, as these sequences are hard to synthesize. In addition, DNA is an unstable molecule that is sensitive to temperature changes and chemical exposure. It needs to be stored in a highly controlled environment. Another challenge that scientists face is the unpredictability of DNA. Multiple studies on the properties of this molecule have been done, but scientists are still unable to create and accurately read DNA, thus making the process of transferring and storing the data even more difficult. Other than that, the process is extremely slow and expensive. Uploads are at the rate of 400 bytes per second, and the technology used costs thousands of dollars per megabyte stored.

These challenges have not been able to deter researchers and scientists, as they keep looking for faster and more affordable ways to store data on DNA. It has been predicted that the use of DNA for data storage will be viable in just a decade- everyone will be able to store all their data on DNA. This technology could also pave way for the biological computers- the next step in medical technology- which can monitor a human being’s body on a molecular level, and possibly prevent and treat illnesses.

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