Scientists claim a breakthrough in the use of DNA

Scientists say they have taken a big step forward in efforts to store information as DNA molecules, which are more compact and durable than other options.

The magnetic hard drives that we currently use to store computer data can take up a lot of space.

And they have to be replaced over time.

Using life’s preferred storage medium to back up our valuable data would allow large amounts of information to be archived in small molecules.

The data would also last for thousands of years, according to the scientists.

A team from Atlanta, USA, has developed a chip that they say could improve existing forms of DNA storage by a factor of 100.

“The function density of our new chip is [about] 100 times that of current commercial devices,” Nicholas Guise, principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), told BBC News.

“So once we add all the control electronics, which is what we will do for the next year of the program, we expect something like a 100-fold improvement over the existing technology for storing DNA data.”

The technology works by growing single strands of DNA, one building block at a time. These building blocks are known as bases, four distinct chemical units that make up the DNA molecule. They are: adenine, cytosine, guanine and

The bases can then be used to encode information, in a way analogous to the strings of ones and zeros (binary code) that carry data in traditional computing.

There are different possible ways to store this information in DNA; for example, a binary code zero could be represented by the bases adenine or cytosine and one could be represented by guanine or thymine. Alternatively, a one and a zero could be assigned to only two of the four bases.

Scientists have said that, if formatted in DNA, every movie ever made could fit within a volume smaller than a sugar cube.

Given how compact and reliable it is, it is not surprising that there is now great interest in DNA as the next medium for archiving data that must be kept indefinitely.

The structures on the chip used to grow DNA are called microwells and are a few hundred nanometers deep, less than the thickness of a sheet of paper.

 

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