DNA-based data comes closer to reality with new milestone

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, in cooperation with Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya have announced a technical breakthrough in improving the efficiency of DNA-based data storage.

The vast information-based complexity of DNA has led scientists to speculate as to whether or not it can be used to store information deliberate to what we want to save. Through the years, it has been found that it indeed is possible to store information in DNA just as how you would in a binary-system based storage hardware. The only challenge is that DNA is actually split into four major identifiers (nucleotides), whereas bits, or even qubits, use only two or three.

The researchers attempted to go beyond this challenge by actually increasing the number of identifiers, in order to allow them to easier encode information onto it. To increase the number, they opted to do “multi-letter” combinations of the four basic nucleotides, and assigned them new values (letters) based on what nucleotide was used.

So, instead of endlessly repeating synthesis rounds, the new identifiers could simply represent the binary values, reducing the required number of sequencing. This also makes it more reliable, as identification errors made would probabilistically also go down.

Using the new method, the number of synthesis rounds to sequence information using DNA went down about 20 percent. The research team also demonstrated that this could potentially go even further up to 75 percent, without the need to significantly make alterations to the original “multi-letter” method.

Of course, compared to how efficient dedicated electronic circuits today are, these improvements are still far off from being developed into a kind of “DNA-based data drive”. Nevertheless, the milestones do represent a significant leap towards the technology’s practicality.

Who knows? Perhaps in the future, an alien exchange officer from a former enemy civilization will be able to form a conspiracy with the crude building blocks of this technology today…

Featured Image credit: Tom Woodward via Flickr

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