Is it possible to transfer data from computers to living cells?

Is it possible to transfer data from computers to living cells?

As humanity generates more and more data, researchers around the world are struggling to discover new ways to store it. DNA is a promising alternative because it is a compact and stable storage resource that can be manipulated with molecular biology techniques.


For starters, the density of information that can be stored in DNA is extremely high. Up to 215 million gigabytes could be stored in one gram of DNA.


The challenge lies in finding a way to connect the world of digital data with the biochemical world of genetics. For now, the information is encoded using chemical DNA synthesis, a rather complicated and relatively expensive process. In fact, DNA sequences must be carefully stored in vitro until they need to be accessed again.


Storage in cells, rather than in vitro, would be much cheaper when it comes to duplicating data, because more cells could simply be grown, rather than repeating the artificial DNA synthesis from scratch.


In this sense, different labs have demonstrated the possibility of encoding digital data in DNA. Proving once again, the advantages of this molecule as a storage method, compared to current physical ones. 


It is estimated that by 2025, the world will have generated 160 zettabytes of data and conventional storage media, would not be able to meet global demand.


Consequently, companies like Catalog DNA have managed to take advantage of DNA-based computing, through a unique methodology.


Their specialized computers not only store a large amount of data in DNA, their cells are able to access it and massively modify it in different ways.


DNA consists of long chains of nucleotides (A, T, C and G) in whose sequence information can be stored.


Of course, a consensus had to be reached to bring the binary code (from 0 and 1, to the four-letter DNA code), and then transfer data from computers to cells. In fact, last year we explained for IA13 how the conversion is done.


The cost of writing and speed of reading DNA, needs to achieve a higher degree of efficiency to compete with electronic storage.


Even if DNA did not become the usual storage resource, there is already a use case that is becoming more and more powerful. DNA molecules are being used to store large-scale data that does not need to be processed frequently.

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