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admin | Category: What Cause Ed | 03.03.2014
Technology companies routinely build sprawling data centers to store all the baby pictures, financial transactions, funny cat videos and email messages its users hoard. But a new technique developed by University of Washington and Microsoft researchers could shrink the space needed to store digital data that today would fill a Walmart supercenter down to the size of a sugar cube. In a paper presented in April at the ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems, the team of computer scientists and electrical engineers has detailed one of the first complete systems to encode, store and retrieve digital data using DNA molecules, which can store information millions of times more compactly than current archival technologies. Authors of the paper are UW computer science and engineering doctoral student James Bornholt, UW bioengineering doctoral student Randolph Lopez, UW associate professor of computer science and engineering Luis Ceze, UW associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering Georg Seelig, and Microsoft researchers and UW CSE affiliate faculty Doug Carmean and Karin Strauss. In one experiment outlined in the paper, the team successfully encoded digital data from four image files into the nucleotide sequences of synthetic DNA snippets. The team has also encoded and retrieved data that authenticates archival video files from the UW’s Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal project that contain interviews with judges, lawyers and other personnel from the Rwandan war crime tribunal. Lee Organick, a UW computer science and engineering research scientist, mixes DNA samples for storage. The digital universe — all the data contained in our computer files, historic archives, movies, photo collections and the exploding volume of digital information collected by businesses and devices worldwide — is expected to hit 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.
That’s a tenfold increase compared to 2013, and will represent enough data to fill more than six stacks of computer tablets stretching to the moon.
DNA molecules can store information many millions of times more densely than existing technologies for digital storage — flash drives, hard drives, magnetic and optical media.


The team from the Molecular Information Systems Lab housed in the UW Electrical Engineering Building, in close collaboration with Microsoft Research, is developing a DNA-based storage system that it expects could address the world’s needs for archival storage. First, the researchers developed a novel approach to convert the long strings of ones and zeroes in digital data into the four basic building blocks of DNA sequences — adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. The digital data is chopped into pieces and stored by synthesizing a massive number of tiny DNA molecules, which can be dehydrated or otherwise preserved for long-term storage. To access the stored data later, the researchers also encode the equivalent of zip codes and street addresses into the DNA sequences. Currently, the largest barrier to viable DNA storage is the cost and efficiency with which DNA can be synthesized (or manufactured) and sequenced (or read) on a large scale. Advances in DNA storage rely on techniques pioneered by the biotechnology industry, but also incorporate new expertise.
The research was funded by Microsoft Research, the National Science Foundation, and the David Notkin Endowed Graduate Fellowship. Handy Wiring Diagram that shows a Paper Trail of how the Electrical System Works for the 7.3L Powerstroke Engines, all Trucks, Excursions, Vans.
More significantly, they were also able to reverse that process — retrieving the correct sequences from a larger pool of DNA and reconstructing the images without losing a single byte of information. While not all of that information needs to be saved, the world is producing data faster than the capacity to store it.


Those systems also degrade after a few years or decades, while DNA can reliably preserve information for centuries. Back (left to right): James Bornholt, Yuan-Jyue Chen, Georg Seelig, Randolph Lopez, Luis Ceze, Karin Strauss. Using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques — commonly used in molecular biology — helps them more easily identify the zip codes they are looking for.
But researchers say there’s no technical barrier to achieving those gains if the right incentives are in place.
We are drawing from a diverse set of disciplines to push the boundaries of what can be done with DNA. DNA is best suited for archival applications, rather than instances where files need to be accessed immediately.
And, as a result, creating a storage system with unprecedented density and durability,” said Karin Strauss, a researcher at Microsoft and UW affiliate associate professor of computer science and engineering.



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