Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

British researchers succeed in storing data on DNA

100 million hours of high-definition video can be stored in a cup of DNA, researchers claim

Article comments

British researchers have discovered a way to store data in the form of DNA, potentially providing a commercially viable alternative to expensive hard disks and magnetic tape.

DNA is an extremely robust way to store data, as evidenced by the information extracted from wooly mammoth bones, which date back tens of thousands of years.

It is also incredibly small, dense and does not need any power for storage, so shipping and keeping it is easy, according to Nick Goldman from the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton.

Although reading DNA is fairly straightforward, writing has always been a major hurdle to making DNA storage a reality, because it is only possible to manufacture DNA in short strings, and both writing and reading DNA are prone to errors – particularly when the same DNA letter is repeated.

The new method involves breaking up the code into lots of overlapping fragments, with indexing information showing where each fragment belongs in the overall code, and making a coding scheme that does not allow repeats.

In order for the code to fail, the same error would have to occur on four different fragments, which would be extremely rare.

The researchers have teamed up with California-based firm Agilent Technologies to synthesise hundreds of thousands of pieces of DNA from a number of encoded files.

The files included versions of an .mp3 of Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream”; a .jpg photo of EMBL-EBI; a .pdf of Watson and Crick’s seminal paper, “Molecular structure of nucleic acids”; a .txt file of all of Shakespeare's sonnets; and a file that describes the encoding.

According to Emily Leproust of Agilent, the result looked like a tiny piece of dust. Agilent mailed the sample to EMBL-EBI, where the researchers were able to sequence the DNA and decode the files without errors.

The researchers claim that at least 100 million hours of high-definition video can be stored in about a cup of DNA. The breaktrough could provide a solution to the data deluge in industries such as life sciences.

“We’ve created a code that's error tolerant using a molecular form we know will last in the right conditions for 10,000 years, or possibly longer,” said Goldman. “As long as someone knows what the code is, you will be able to read it back if you have a machine that can read DNA.”

The next step for the researchers is to perfect the coding scheme and explore practical aspects, paving the way for a commercially viable DNA storage model.

The method was published in the journal Nature on 23 January 2013.


More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *