DNA hard drive that stored Shakespeare's works may reform computer storage

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 08:40 hrs

Researchers have downloaded all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets on to synthetic DNA in a breakthrough that could lead to major advances in computer storage.

Scientists were then able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.

The same technique made it possible to store a 26 second excerpt from Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech and a photo of the Cambridgeshire laboratory where the work took place.

Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick's paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.

The landmark study paves the way to storing huge amounts of data using the same method evolved by Nature to write the 'Book of Life'.

Theoretically, 100million hours of high definition video could be stored in a cupful of DNA - equivalent to every film and TV programme ever created.

Unlike magnetic tape, which degrades within a decade, DNA is a hardy material that can last for tens of thousands of years. A DNA archive also requires no constant supply of electric power, as do hard disks.

For their experiment, the British scientists employed a California-based company to create strands of artificial DNA that corresponded to their coding instructions.

The end result was a small test-tube the size of a little finger containing a tiny amount of dry dusty material. This was the DNA, which was then 'read' and decoded to reproduce the original files.

Five genetic "letters" from the genetic code - A,C,G and T - were used to represent the noughts and ones that make up "bytes" of digital information.

"We already know that DNA is a robust way to store information because we can extract it from bones of woolly mammoths, which date back tens of thousands of years, and make sense of it," the Daily Mail quoted Dr Nick Goldman from the European Bioinformatics Institute at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire as saying.

The scientists crossed a major hurdle by incorporating 'error correction' similar to that found in devices such as laptops and mobile phones.

This involved overlapping short strands of DNA and independently writing every million-molecule fragment of code four times.

Effectively, three back ups were created for each fragment, greatly reducing the chances of making mistakes.

The details of the technique have been recently described in Nature. (ANI)

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