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    DNA Storage Advance: Entire Genetics Textbook Encoded In Less Than One Trillionth Of A Gram Scientists have found a way to store an entire textbook in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20, 2012
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      DNA Storage Advance: Entire Genetics Textbook Encoded In Less Than One
      Trillionth Of A Gram




      Scientists have found a way to store an entire
      textbook in the code of DNA.Scientists have
      found a way to store an entire textbook in the
      code of DNA.

      Scientists have found a way to store an entire textbook in the code of
      DNA. By John Bohannon

      When it comes to storing information, hard drives don't hold a candle to
      DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere
      milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in
      the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has
      been mostly theoretical—until now. In a new study, researchers stored an
      entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA—one trillionth of a gram
      —an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data.

      A few teams have tried to write data into the genomes of living cells. But
      the approach has a couple of disadvantages. First, cells die—not a good
      way to lose your term paper. They also replicate, introducing new mutations
      over time that can change the data.

      To get around these problems, a team led by George Church, a synthetic
      biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, created a DNA
      information-archiving system that uses no cells at all. Instead, an inkjet printer embeds
      short fragments of chemically synthesized DNA onto the surface of a tiny
      glass chip. To encode a digital file, researchers divide it into tiny blocks of
      data and convert these data not into the 1s and 0s of typical digital
      storage media, but rather into DNA’s four-letter alphabet of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts.
      Each DNA fragment also contains a digital "barcode" that records its
      location in the original file. Reading the data requires a DNA sequencer and a
      computer to reassemble all of the fragments in order and convert them back
      into digital format. The computer also corrects for errors; each block of
      data is replicated thousands of times so that any chance glitch can be
      identified and fixed by comparing it to the other copies.

      To demonstrate its system in action, the team used the DNA chips to encode
      a genetics book co-authored by Church. It worked. After converting the
      book into DNA and translating it back into digital form, the team’s system had
      a raw error rate of only two errors per million bits, amounting to a few
      single-letter typos. That is on par with DVDs and far better than magnetic
      hard drives. And because of their tiny size, DNA chips are now the storage
      medium with the highest known information density, the researchers report
      online today in Science.

      Don’t replace your flash drive with genetic material just yet, however.
      The cost of the DNA sequencer and other instruments "currently makes this
      impractical for general use," says Daniel Gibson, a synthetic biologist at the
      J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, "but the field is moving
      fast and the technology will soon be cheaper, faster, and smaller." Gibson
      led the team that created the first completely synthetic genome, which
      included a "watermark" of extra data encoded into the DNA. The researchers used
      a three-letter coding system that is less efficient than the Church team's
      but has built-in safeguards to prevent living cells from translating the
      DNA into proteins. "If DNA is going to be used for this purpose, and outside
      a laboratory setting, then you would want to use DNA sequence that is
      least likely to be expressed in the environment," he says. Church disagrees.
      Unless someone deliberately "subverts" his DNA data-archiving system, he sees
      little danger.



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