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'Punch-Card' DNA Could Mean Cheaper High-Capacity Data Storage

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a new method of using DNA for data storage.

Credit: Getty Images

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) researchers have proposed an alternative to custom-synthesizing DNA for high-capacity data storage, using instead a punch-card-inspired method of marking existing DNA molecules with patterns of "nicks" to encode data.

UIUC's S. Kasra Tabatabaei said the approach uses enzymes to sever bonds between the molecules that constitute the DNA's backbone; a nick caused by such a severance represents 1, and its absence represents 0.

Experimenting with genetic material harvested from strains of E. coli bacteria, the scientists encoded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and a 14-kilobyte image of the Lincoln Memorial on bacterial DNA, then used commercial sequencing techniques to accurately read the files.

Said UIUC’s Olgica Milenkovic, “The biggest problem with DNA data storage right now isn’t density; it’s cost, and our costs are really low and can be made even lower.”

From Scientific American
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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