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octopus prime

Science Works to store data on dna

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One selling point is durability. Scientists can recover and read DNA sequences from fossils of Neanderthals and even older life forms. So as a storage medium, "it could last thousands and thousands of years," says Luis Ceze of the University of Washington, who works with Microsoft on DNA data storage.

Advocates also stress that DNA crams information into very little space. Almost every cell of your body carries about six feet of it; that adds up to billions of miles in a single person. In terms of information storage, that compactness could mean storing all the publicly accessible data on the internet in a space the size of a shoebox, Ceze says.

In fact, all the digital information in the world might be stored in a load of whitish, powdery DNA that fits in space the size of a large van, says Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England.

What's more, advocates say, DNA storage would avoid the problem of having to repeatedly copy stored information into new formats as the technology for reading it becomes outmoded.

"There's always going to be someone in the business of making a DNA reader because of the health care applications," Goldman says. "It's always something we're going to want to do quickly and inexpensively."

Getting the information into DNA takes some doing. Once scientists have converted the digital code into the 4-letter DNA code, they have to custom-make DNA. For some recent research Strauss and Ceze worked on, that involved creating about 10 million short strings of DNA.




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