Microsoft Tests DNA Data Storage Ability with Shocking Results
Jul 11 2016 by Michele Stevens
Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington (UW) said they have broken a world record by storing 200MB of data on synthetic DNA strands.
Digital data from more than 600 basic smartphones can be stored in the faint pink smear of DNA at the end of this test tube.
"They're very innovative and are bringing different things from different areas into their field and we feel we are doing something very similar", says Karin Strauss, the helm of the Microsoft Research DNA storage project.
Although the DNA storage method remains expensive and slow compared to current method, the technology could one day become a viable alternative for conventional hard drives, optical disks, etc.
"We humans, as DNA-based life forms, will always be interested in reading and writing DNA".
Scientists have previously demonstrated that DNA is a good storage medium, with its four-nucleotide base pairs - adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine - acting as the 1s and 0s of a binary digital file.
"It's very dense and with the right storage conditions, DNA can be extremely long-lasting", George Seelig, an associate professor at the University of Washington, recently told Newsweek.
Over the past few years, many attempts at DNA storage have already been successful as well. It builds on previous efforts such as a Harvard researcher encoding a 50,000-word book onto DNA back in 2012 totaling less than 1 megabyte, and that same researcher this year increasing the threshold to 22 megabytes.
For archival tasks, such as storing hospitals' medical imaging data or for companies that produce a lot of video, DNA may be an ideal solution, Strauss said.
From there, the team uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to multiply the strands it wants to recover, then takes a sample, sequences or decodes the DNA, and runs error correction computations.
It explains why researchers from the project, which is only one among multiple groups around the world striving for the same goal, are optimistic, despite having a long while to go.