Scientists successfully store computer files in actual DNA strands

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March 2 (UPI) -- DNA is nature's hard drive, capable of storing, replicating and transmitting massive amounts of information. Researchers in New York found a way to use DNA like an actual computer hard drive, successfully storing, replicating and retrieving several digital files. A pair of scientists from Columbia University and the New York Genome Center selected five files -- including a computer operating system and computer virus -- and compressed them into a master file. They transcribed the master file into short strings of binary code, combinations of ones and zeros. The researchers then randomly compiled the strings into so-called droplets using fountain codes. The droplets were translated into four DNA nucleotide bases -- A, G, C and T. The erasure-correcting algorithm ensured no letter combinations known to cause errors were used, and also assigned a barcode to each droplet to aid file retrieval and reassembly. The coding process produced 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long. Researchers sent the DNA file to Twist Bioscience, a startup in San Francisco that turns digital DNA into biological DNA. Two weeks later, the company sent the researchers a vial containing their DNA strands. Researcher Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski used standard DNA sequencing software to re-digitalize their DNA. A special program helped them translate the nucleotide sequences back into binary code. They found their files with zero coding errors. According to the pair's calculations -- detailed in the journal Science -- they were able to store 215 petabytes of data in a single gram of DNA, a new record.

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