Tiny capsules have been proposed for storing data on DNA

Tiny capsules have been proposed for storing data on DNA – this should reduce the error rate and protect against information loss.

Nature has found a solution that is amazing in terms of data storage density – DNA. Any information from the Internet, including endless photos of cats, can be recorded on DNA in the volume of a box for a medium-sized cat. Scientists have long tried to repeat this trick, and they actually did it there are successes.

    Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

With only four natural nitrogenous bases The volume of a shoebox can hold 215 PB of data. But if we synthesize artificial nitrogenous bases and bring them to 11 basic codes, then the amount of data stored in the “box” can be doubled! With the right approach, this information can be stored for millions of years, unlike data on hard drives and SSDs. One day that will happen, but at the moment researchers are solving a number of problems related to recording on DNA, in particular the problem of data corruption with repeated access and, as a result, an increase in errors and data loss.

In the new Article In the magazine Nature A group of researchers has proposed an interesting technique for protecting and labeling an informative DNA carrier, which protects the carrier from being destroyed during reading and also facilitates the sorting of DNA files and leads to the creation of robotic libraries.

Today, in the basic process of working with information recorded on DNA, everything goes as follows: a seed is fed into the “soup” of DNA carriers – primer – which triggers the PCR reaction (Polymerase chain reaction) replicated with the desired “file”. Each “file” is a written strand of DNA, marked in a specific way, and the primer sticks to it and starts the replication process. Modern DNA decoding tools require millions of identical sequences to reliably decode a single “file”. Any such “reading” leads to errors and ultimately destroys the information. After all, it becomes difficult to work with several “files” at the same time.

To avoid all this, scientists came up with the idea of ​​enclosing the DNA file in a polymer capsule, but not just like that, but only when heated to a temperature above 50 °C. The PCR process begins at a lower temperature, then when heated, the original “file” is hidden in a capsule, and then everything goes on without it. This allows you to protect the original data when reading (replication) and also to assign a label to each “file” – in this case fluorescence of different shades.

Glow makes it possible to automate the cataloging and subsequent selection of files – so libraries can be created. To read the replicated DNA, it is enough to cool the system and isolate from it everything that was reproduced during the PCR process. In this case, the original carrier DNA remains unaffected by the PCR process and introduces no errors into its structure, and the color label by which it can be sorted stays with it.

    Image source: Tom de Greef

Microcapsules containing DNA labeled with fluorescent markers under a microscope. Image source: Tom de Greef

According to the researchers, the proposed technique allows reading up to 25 files at a time and only loses 0.3% of the file after three reads, rather than 35% like existing methods.

“Now all that remains is to wait for the cost of DNA synthesis to drop even further, said Tom de Greef, lead author of the study. “Then the devices are ready for use.”


About the author

Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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