DNA Data Storage Takes a Leap Forward

Microsoft researchers have found a way to add file systems to DNA, bringing the reality of DNA data storage a few steps closer.

You may have read our article about DNA data storage. It’s an exciting field, with researchers able to store 215 petabytes of data on a single gram.

Not to get mathematical, but that’s ability to store 215,000 terabytes in something the size of a drop of water. Compared to a clunky 2TB drive, that’s revolutionary on any scale.

Unfortunately, one of the difficulties with using DNA for data storage is in order to restore the data, you’ve got to sequence the whole thing. In fact, you’ve got to do it several times over, since there are errors and a degree of randomness involved.

So that chews up time. Time that stops DNA data storage from being commercially viable. But now, researchers have figured out a way to add something like a file system to it.

In short, imagine giving your genes a C:\ drive.

Random Access Memory in DNA

Unsurprisingly, it was Microsoft Research in collaboration with the University of Washington who figured out a fairly simple way to do this. Microsoft have been all-in when it comes to new technologies lately – specifically DNA data storage, and anything to do with virtual or augmented reality.

The researchers found a way to tag individual sequences and separate them, using about a square millimeter of space.

So the million dollar question: are we going to have practical DNA-based storage anytime soon? Well, while the ability to synthesize DNA has grown from nothing just a few decades ago, it’s still got a long way to go.

Imagine we gathered all the DNA we could synthesize in a year on a single ‘DNA-drive’. If we read it at a few KB per second, it would only take two weeks. That’s how limited the ability to synthesize DNA is right now.

In short, there needs to be significant strides in synthesizing before we can have our 215,000 TB DNA-drives. Despite that, people have already figured out a way to bake malware into DNA, so who knows?

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