15 June 2020

Without PCR

The first prototype of a functional file system based on DNA has been created

Georgy Golovanov, Hi-tech+


As in many other things, nature is far superior to modern technologies in data storage — just one gram of DNA can hold 215 million GB of information. Thanks to the new DORIS method (Dynamic Operations and Reusable Information Storage, dynamic operations and Reusable Information Storage – VM), man-made DNA information storage systems can read and write files at room temperature and for the first time not damage the nucleotide chains themselves.

In every cell of our body there is an amazing amount of information encoded in DNA. If we had the opportunity to use this potential to the fullest, then the contents of the entire Internet — about 700 billion GB of data — could be would fit in the volume of a shoe box.

In addition to the capacity, DNA has the advantage of long-term data storage. The most reliable hard drives and Blu-Ray discs become unusable after a couple of decades, and then only if they are stored in proper conditions. Information from DNA can be read millions of years later.

Unfortunately, today the practical value of data storage technology in DNA is not high, mainly due to the too painstaking process of writing and reading information on such a medium. However , the study of specialists from The University of North Carolina (USA) allows us to hope for progress in this direction, according to a press release New Approach to DNA Data Storage Makes the System More Dynamic, Scalable.

Article by Lin et al. Dynamic and scalable DNA-based information storage is published in the journal Nature Communications – VM.

At the heart of most existing DNA storage systems is polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which allows access to stored files. The information is encoded in DNA strands that float freely in the "genetic soup". Attaching certain DNA fragments allows you to set "names" to files so that they can be found later. The problem is that to do this, the soup needs to be heated and then cooled. This leads to the gradual destruction of the source file.

The new DORIS method dispenses with heating. The fragments that act as file names consist of the tail of a single DNA chain. This allows the system to find files without having to tear off data chains. In other words, DORIS can operate at room temperature, which brings the technology closer to real use.

In addition, DORIS increases the information density of the technology and does not absorb the original file during reading. A user can rename a file, delete it, or even hide it from another user. A functional prototype developed by scientists proved the viability of the idea.

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