Researchers Store Full Computer Operating System on DNA

Proving that everything old is new again, researchers are now storing data on the oldest information storage solution there is: DNA.

A pair of researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) have come up with a technique to store massive amounts of data on DNA. The result, according to study coauthor Yaniv Erlich, is the “highest-density data-storage device ever created.”

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The researchers say DNA is the perfect storage medium: it’s ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept cool and dry, according to a news release from Columbia.

DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete—if it does, we have bigger problems,” Erlich, a computer science professor at Columbia Engineering, said in a statement.

Erlich and his colleague Dina Zielinski, an associate scientist at NYGC, successfully encoded six files into DNA: a full computer operating system, the 1895 French film Arrival of a train at La Citation, a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon.

They first compressed the files into a master file and split the data into short strings of binary code, made up of ones and zeros. Next, “using an erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain codes, they randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, and mapped the ones and zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G, C and T,” according to the release.

They wound up with a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands and send it in a text file to a San Francisco DNA synthesis startup called Twist Bio science, which specializes in turning digital data into biological data.

For More Information: – Angela Moscaritolo

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