Scientists in Britain have announced a breakthrough in the quest to turn DNA into a revolutionary form of data storage that could fit the world’s entire three billion terabytes of stored data into the palm of your hand.
They said a speck of man-made DNA could hold mountains of data that could be freeze-dried, shipped and stored, potentially for thousands of years. The contents are “read” by sequencing the DNA – as is routinely done today, in genetic fingerprinting and so on – and turning it back into computer code.
“We already know that DNA is a robust way to store information because we can extract it from bones of woolly mammoths, which date back tens of thousands of years, and make sense of it,” said Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
The study reported that the institute’s team had stored all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photo, a PDF of a scientific paper, and a 26-second sound clip from US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in a barely visible bit of DNA in a test tube.