Storing Data in DNA

Interesting article in Science looking at the current state of using DNA to for large-scale data storage. The articles notes that DNA storage would be,

Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks.

The article goes on to profile Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski who have worked to increase the density at which data can be stored in DNA. After converting a couple data files into binary and then splitting that into digital DNA strands,

They sent these as text files to Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco, California–based startup, which then synthesized the DNA strands. Two weeks later, Erlich and Zielinski received in the mail a vial with a speck of DNA encoding their files. To decode them, the pair used modern DNA sequencing technology. The sequences were fed into a computer, which translated the genetic code back into binary and used the tags to reassemble the six original files. The approach worked so well that the new files contained no errors, they report today in Science. They were also able to make a virtually unlimited number of error-free copies of their files through polymerase chain reaction, a standard DNA copying technique. What’s more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% the theoretical limit.

The cost, however, is still prohibitive. According to Science, “it cost $7000 to synthesize the 2 megabytes of data in the files, and another $2000 to read it.”