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EMBL-EBI researchers make DNA storage a reality
Date:1/23/2013

Researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have created a way to store data in the form of DNA a material that lasts for tens of thousands of years. The new method, published today in the journal Nature, makes it possible to store at least 100 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.

There is a lot of digital information in the world about three zettabytes' worth (that's 3000 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, and make sense of it," explains Nick Goldman of EMBL-EBI. "It's also incredibly small, dense and does not need any power for storage, so shipping and keeping it is easy."

Reading DNA is fairly straightforward, but writing it has until now been a major hurdle to making DNA storage a reality. There are two challenges: first, using current methods it is only possible to manufacture DNA in short strings. Secondly, both writing and reading DNA are prone to errors, particularly when the same DNA letter is repeated. Nick Goldman and co-author Ewan Birney, Associate Director of EMBL-EBI, set out to create a code that overcomes both problems.

"We knew we needed to make a code using only short strings of DNA, and to do it in such a way that creating a run of the same letter would be impossible. So we figured, let's break up the code into lots of overlapping fragments going in both directions, with indexing information showing where each fragment be
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Contact: Mary Todd-Bergman
contactpress@ebi.ac.uk
44-122-349-4665
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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