Every time we use a phone, go online, view a movie, or make a purchase, data is generated. Data is essential to society, industry, and science. However, data requires attention, room, and energy. Every day, more data is created, so we must find better ways to keep it secure and usable.
Using DNA to store data is one approach to accomplish this. The blueprint for life is contained in DNA. It is made of four parts: A, T, C, and G. Long chains made up of these pieces can include any type of information, including words, images, sounds, or even movies.
News too fresh to process? This article will provide you with a closer look at how DNA will shape the future of data.
DNA Data Storage: Pros & Cons
When it comes to data storage, DNA is superior to hard drives and flash drives. One gram of DNA may contain as much info as 215 million phones in a very tiny space. It can last for millions of years provided it is kept dry and refrigerated. And it can be used by any living thing or machine that can work with DNA.
However, as a method of data storage, DNA also has several drawbacks and difficulties. One of them is the cost: although it is still difficult and expensive to make and read DNA, it is becoming easier and quicker. Another one is errors: DNA may be damaged or altered by anything within or outside of it. A third is the concerns that arise when employing DNA as a data storage medium, such as those related to ownership, security, and privacy.
How Does DNA Data Storage Work?
The primary concept behind DNA data storage is to convert digital data into DNA parts before encoding them into fake DNA pieces. Two essential stages are required to do this: changing and getting back.
Changing is the step of turning digital data into DNA parts. We can do this by using a code with two options (0 or 1), where each option is shown by two DNA parts (A-T or C-G). For example, the code 01000001 can be changed into ATCGATAT. Or we can use a code with four options (00-A, 01-T, 10-C, 11-G), where each option is shown by one DNA part. For example, the same code 01000001 can be changed into TACA.
Getting back is the step of getting digital data from DNA parts. We can do this by using a way to find out the order of the DNA parts in a fake DNA piece. For example, if we find out the order ATCGATAT, we can get back 01000001 using the code with two options. Or if we find out the order TACA, we can get back 01000001 using the code with four options.
We need to employ additional methods to create and locate various fake DNA pieces to store and retrieve large amounts of data from DNA. For example, we may employ codes to correct mistakes in the DNA parts. Additionally, we can utilize labels to give certain fake DNA pieces different names, making them easier to locate and use.
How Much Does DNA Data Storage Cost?
The expense of using DNA to store data is one of the main obstacles. Currently, it is significantly more costly than other methods of data storage, such as hard drives or flash drives. How much data we want to keep and how frequently we want to retrieve it will determine the price.
The main costs of DNA data storage are:
Synthesis: This is the cost of making the fake DNA pieces that have the data in them.
Sequencing: This is the cost of reading the data from the fake DNA pieces.
Storage: This is the cost of keeping the fake DNA pieces in a safe place. This is usually much cheaper than synthesis and sequencing because DNA can be stored in a small space and does not need much care.
How we balance these three expenses will determine how much DNA data storage will ultimately cost. For instance, we may save money by using less error correction and fewer labels, which lowers the costs of synthesis and sequencing, if we wish to store data for a very long period and retrieve it relatively infrequently. However, if we wish to keep data for a shorter period and retrieve it more often, we might require additional labeling and error correction, which raises the cost of synthesis and sequencing.
The good news is that as the technology advances and is used more often, it is anticipated that DNA data storage prices will decrease.
How Long Does DNA Data Storage Last?
If DNA is correctly kept, it can last a very long period. DNA can preserve the data for a very long period, unlike other methods of data storage like hard drives or flash drives, which might degrade or become outdated with time.
The durability of fake DNA pieces used for data storage relies on how effectively they are shielded from factors that may harm them, such as heat, light, moisture, or chemicals. Put them inside little glass (silica) balls that can serve as a shield as one method of defense. The fake DNA pieces can also be stabilized by adding salt.
According to some studies, DNA properly encapsulated with salt can last for decades at room temperature and should last much longer in a controlled environment. Some researchers estimate that DNA can last over 10,000 years in any condition.
Projects Using DNA to Store Data
Microsoft and University of Washington
One of the leading projects in DNA data storage is a collaboration between Microsoft and University of Washington. They have developed a fully automated system that can encode, store, and retrieve data from DNA. The system consists of a software module that converts binary data to DNA sequences, a liquid-handling robot that synthesizes and manipulates DNA molecules, and a DNA sequencer that reads the stored data. The system also uses error correction and compression algorithms to ensure data integrity and efficiency.
The project has demonstrated several milestones, such as storing 200 MB of data in DNA, including an OK Go music video and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and retrieving the word "hello" from a pool of 13 million DNA strands. They aim to create a scalable and cost-effective DNA storage system that can store exabytes of data in a coffee mug.
Another project that is exploring DNA data storage is from MIT. They have developed a technique for labeling and retrieving DNA data files from a large pool using silica nanoparticles. Each nanoparticle contains DNA sequences that encode a particular file, such as an image, and the surface of the nanoparticle is coated with short DNA barcodes that describe the file contents. To retrieve a file, the researchers use PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to amplify the DNA strands that match the desired barcode, and then sequence them to recover the data.
The project has demonstrated that they can accurately retrieve individual images stored as DNA sequences from a set of 20 images. The project claims that this technique could scale up to 10^20 files and enable a content-based search of DNA data.
Can I Use My Own DNA For Data Storage?
If you want to store your DNA for data storage, you will need some tools and skills to do it. You will also need to follow some safety and ethical guidelines to avoid harming yourself or others.
Here are some steps you can follow to store your DNA for data storage:
Collect your sample: You will need to take some DNA-containing cells from your body. You may accomplish this by spitting into a tube or using a cotton swab to clean your cheek. Along with your name and the date, your sample has to be labeled.
Extract your DNA: You must extract your DNA from the rest of the cell's constituent parts. This can be accomplished by introducing agents that degrade the cell membrane and liberate the DNA. You must also remove any undesirable chemicals from your sample.
Encode your data: You must turn digital information into a form that can be written into your DNA. Use a program that converts binary code into nucleotide code to accomplish this. Your code will also require additional labeling and error correction. For example, the letter A can be encoded as 00, T as 01, C as 10, and G as 11. You can also add some error-correction codes and metadata to ensure the accuracy and integrity of your data.
Synthesize your DNA: You can do this by using a service that offers DNA synthesis on demand. You can also use a device that can print DNA molecules, such as the BioXp 3200 System from SGI-DNA. These methods allow you to create custom-made DNA molecules that contain your data.
Store your DNA: Once you have your synthesized DNA molecules, you can store them in a suitable container, such as a vial or a capsule. You should keep them in a cool, dry and dark place to prevent damage or degradation. You should also label them clearly and securely to avoid confusion or loss.
To access your data from your stored DNA molecules, you need to reverse the process. You need to sequence your DNA molecules using a device that can read the nucleotide order, such as the MinION from Oxford Nanopore Technologies or the Illumina NovaSeq 6000 System. You then need to decode your DNA sequences using any software that converts them back into binary code and then into your original data format.
Storing your own DNA for data storage is an innovative and futuristic way of preserving your information. However, it is not yet a practical or affordable option for most people. It also raises some ethical and legal issues, such as privacy, ownership and consent.
In conclusion, DNA is a promising medium for storing and processing data in the future. It has several advantages over conventional methods. However, some challenges and limitations need to be overcome, with the most prominent being cost. Therefore, more research and development are needed to make DNA-based data systems more feasible and accessible for various applications.
As the world becomes more data-driven, it's essential to understand the potential and challenges of DNA-based data storage, which could revolutionize the way we preserve and access information. Contact Dirox today and learn how we can assist you with your data!
Started in 2003 in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, our Development Company operates on a Global Scale in Asia, Europe, and America. Dirox’s team of technology consultants, business gurus, software & apps coders, and design visionaries bring you innovative solutions on time, on budget, and on quality. We strive to bring you the best IT outsourcing & offshore services.