Since time immemorial, DNA has been nature’s go-to data storage device. And though scientists came up with computers, floppy drives, and cloud-based systems, reality seems to check in that they might not be sufficient. In a recent study, however, while decoding data from a DNA sample of extinct animals, scientists were drawn to the fact that genetic data stored was preserved over millions of years in the animal’s remains.
According to Karin Strauss, a Microsoft principal researcher, data stored in DNA is capable of lasting very long and can store a large amount of data in a small amount of space. Strauss also noted that the genetic construction of a mammoth could be contained in a minute molecule. By relative size, she states data that would be included in a fully functional data center can be fitted into a couple of cubes of sugar
Storage on DNA came before the computer age. Its basic composition features an intertwining Felix of substrates. These substrates are called bases and give the organism instruction on what to do. However, in the 1960s researchers stumbled on a discovery that DNA could be rewritten with a new set of instructions. Scientists would then need to load the DNA with information in the base sequence and program machines to decipher them. With this in mind, scientists would only need to come up with a system to decode DNA stored information
However, computers have also grown in functionality. Modern-day machines are capable of running decoding software for DNA-stored data. In the year, two teams from Microsoft and UW came together to display the capability of DNA data sequencing. In a combined effort, the teams formulated the theoretical concept into reality. They put together decoding and encoding software and integrated them into machines that generated genetic material. This setup prepared the material for reading by the software.
After 21hours of deconstructing and constructing, the team’s efforts bore fruit with the software successfully deciphering information that was stored in the DNA. However, despite the long time taken in the process, the team celebrated that the process was fully automated. Strauss relayed that full autonomy was necessary for the success of the program.
Nevertheless, some researchers doubt the viability of DNA for the work. Top researcher Steve Benner raised his concerns that DNA would be subject to change with time due to Darwinian Evolution. He also raised concerns about various factors coming into play with the use of DNA. However, Strauss assures that despite that, DNA offers the best molecule for testing.
This post was originally published on Financial Sector