DNA Digital Storage

1.What is it?

A method of storing digital data on fragments of synthesised DNA for high capacity and low maintenance information storage. A solution to minimise the occupation of physical space and avoid losing access to information on storage devices such as a USB or a hard drive which are inevitable to becoming obsolete with future upgrades.

DNA is a robust, natural information hub that has been carried along with us and we have been able to decode samples as old as 135 million years.

Featured Image by MedX – Jannat Alam

2. Why is it important?

Currently, huge volumes of data are consuming a lot of physical space on paper and within mechanical storage devices which require a constant supply of electricity to maintain and extract data, making the process very expensive. Even materials which are more conservative, such as magnetic tape has a short life span of around 10 years before degradation.

DNA could be an evolutionary solution as it can last thousands of years, given it is stored safely in a dry and cool environment. Creating this unified approach of storing information throughout the medical and research community can create a community better versed in each other’s work and aid faster, more efficient solutions to theories by enabling a universal checkpoint; DNA.

It has more prominently acknowledged that a multidisciplinary approach to our evolutionary questions in a single point model would be beneficial, however the difficulty of merging the data from different fields has proven difficult both conceptually and computationally. For this purpose, a team has come together to build BEAST 2, a computational software platform for Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis to tackle this very issue and bring us closer to speaking one language which could further enable DNA digital storage to aid research facilities advancements.

Illustration from EBI

3. How does it work?

  1. The Goldman Group at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), have developed a code to translate the digital binary code containing zeroes and ones to A, C, G and T equivalents of DNA.
  2. Extra rules are required to avoid repeats and sequence the code into 200 bases at a time in order to ensure the most reliable capacity to create human DNA fragments with minimal errors.
  3. The code can then be programmed in to DNA synthesis machines to create the encrypted fragments of minuscule DNA to be stored for future reference.
  4. The stored DNA digital data can then be amplified and translated at a later date using DNA sequencing machines.
Image of Digital information encoding in DNA from ‘Towards practical, high- capacity, low- maintenance information storage in synthesised DNA’, Nature paper

References

1.Hesketh E, Sayir J, Goldman N. Improving communication for interdisciplinary teams working on storage of digital information in DNA. F1000Research. 2018;7:39.

2. Bouckaert R, Vaughan T, Barido-Sottani J, Duchene S, Fourment M, Gavryushkina A et al. BEAST 2.5: An Advanced Software Platform for Bayesian Evolutionary Analysis. 2018.

3. Goldman N, Bertone P, Chen S, Dessimoz C, LeProust E, Sipos B et al. Towards practical, high-capacity, low-maintenance information storage in synthesized DNA. Nature. 2013;494(7435):77-80.

4. https://www.ebi.ac.uk/research/goldman/dna-storage

Complimentary artistic collaboration of the week – Wyllie O Hagan

This week our artistic tribute goes to Denise Wyllie and Clare O Hagan’s contribution with ‘Art and Science DNA’ exhibition celebrating Rosalind Franklin’s contribution to the field and raising awareness and funding for research in ovarian cancer treatments.

Please find their work available for purchase here.

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