A genetic storage device has been used to “download” all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets on to strands of synthetic DNA, in a breakthrough which could solve the problem of storing ever-growing data.
Scientists were able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.
The new method by researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), published in the journal Nature, makes it possible to store at least 100 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.
The technique made it possible to store a 26-second excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and a photo of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory where the work took place.
Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick’s paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.
There is a lot of digital information in the world — about three zettabytes’ worth (that’s 3,000 billion billion bytes) — and the constant influx of new digital content poses a real challenge for archivists.
Hard disks are expensive and require a constant supply of electricity, while even the best “no-power” archiving materials such as magnetic tape degrade within a decade.
This is a growing problem in the life sciences, where massive volumes of data — including DNA sequences — make up the fabric of the scientific record.
“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,” said Nick Goldman of EMBL-EBI.