A human DNA-inspired storage system is in the works

Researchers are working on a DNA-inspired storage system that can hold massive amount of data, without taking much space   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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A team of researchers at MIT are working on a storage system that can hold massive amount of data, without taking much space. The system under development is inspired by the human DNA, a building block of the genome.

A coffee mug full of DNA could store all of the world’s data, said Mark Bathe, professor of biological engineering at MIT.

The research team and the Broad Institute estimate that there are about 10 trillion gigabytes of digital data on Earth right now, and every day, humans are adding another 2.5 million gigabytes of data.

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This data consumes a lot of space as they are stored in enormous facilities known as exabyte data centers which can be the size of several football fields and cost around $1 billion to build and maintain, according to the researchers.

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A property of the human DNA that makes it a desirable storage format is that it doesn’t consume any energy. One can write the DNA and then store it forever. Extreme stability, ease of synthesis and sequencing are other factors that favours DNA-based storage.

File retrieval

However, researchers reckon that the cost of DNA synthesis and pulling out the required file from the massive data repository are the major challenges in using DNA to store data.

“It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack," Bathe said.

The MIT team has developed a new retrieval technique to pull out the required data. It involves encapsulating each DNA file into a small silica particle. Each capsule is labeled with single-stranded DNA “barcodes” that correspond to the contents of the file.

This enables them to pull out the desired file while leaving the rest of the DNA intact to be put back into storage.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 9:16:08 AM |

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