New Record for DNA Data RecordingCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: August 20, 2012 01:42PM
Within all living organisms is some form of DNA that stores all of the information needed to keep the organism alive and make another copy of the life form. As you may be able to image, that is a lot of information, but DNA is very efficient at what it does and has a high information density. This is why researchers have been looking to it as a means to store other kinds of information, and researchers at Harvard Medical School have recently managed to encode a soon-to-be released book into DNA.
This is not the first time digital data has been stored in DNA before, but the book, with jpeg images and HTML formatting, is roughly 1000 times larger than the previous record for DNA storage. Of course the researchers made certain choices that enabled this. The DNA is synthetic and is not in a currently living organism, which is important as it allows the entire molecule to be used for data storage. Another decision the researchers made was to borrow from information technology as it encoded the book in 96-bit data blocks with a 19-bit address. A more traditional method is to take advantage of overlapping sequences in DNA strands to guide assembly.
The encoded book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, has a release date of October 2, and thanks to the ease with which DNA is replicated, 70 billion copies have already been made. The team actually considered having the printed copies shipped with a DNA copy, but as the book in part discusses the importance of supervision when it comes to this synthetic biology, they decided against it.