Biological methods of recording and transmitting information are very leisurely. Nature has billions of years of evolution ahead and haste is contraindicated, because information must be carried through the abyss of time without critical damage. DNA turned out to be just such a tool for storing and transferring data about biological organisms. Not surprisingly, scientists are thinking about how DNA can be used to store any information.
Earlier, the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) launched the MIST (Molecular Information Storage) program. Within the framework of the program, the SMASH (Scalable Molecular Archival Software and Hardware) project stood out. The contract for the SMASH program was awarded to the Georgia Technological Research Institute (GTRI). The program provides for the development of semiconductor platforms (chips) for writing and reading data from DNA.
Under the SMASH program, Twist Bioscience and Roswell Biotechnologies, as well as the University of Washington and Microsoft, work with scientists from the Atlanta Institute. How reported Today the BBC news agency, scientists reported great progress in recording and storing data on DNA. According to the developers, they were able to grope for an opportunity to increase the recording density on DNA by 100 times in comparison with current solutions. In the future, for example, this may allow recording all films in the history of mankind in the volume of one cube of sugar.
For recording data on DNA, not a binary code can be used, but an encoding of four basic characters, which dramatically increases the recording density in comparison with recording using a binary code. As you know, a DNA strand contains sequences of four bases of nucleic acids: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). For example, for encoding, you can represent the bases as follows, where 00 = A, 01 = C, 10 = G, and 11 = T. The data encoded with these acids is written into DNA and packed into a small container for storage. At low temperatures, DNA and the data recorded on it can be preserved for thousands of years with almost no damage.
The problem with writing data in DNA is the low synthesis rate and the same low sequencing rate. Besides, it is expensive. It takes scientists up to 24 hours to synthesize DNA with recording 200 MB of data. Therefore, the task is to simplify, speed up and reduce the cost of the stages of writing and reading, which will be helped by placing DNA on chips. Scientists at GTRI have come up with and implemented one such approach with one important improvement. They learned to synthesize single strands of DNA in parallel in many cells at once. And the more such cells there are, the faster the recording will go and the higher the density of the recorded information will be.
In the new year, the researchers plan to arm the DNA synthesis chip with electronic strapping to speed up the processes and fully automate them. In the long term, this may make it possible to abandon the use of magnetic tapes for long-term data storage. Tapes have to be updated every 10 years, and DNA data can be stored for hundreds or thousands of years without being updated.