Deoxyribonucleic acid or better known as DNA, the molecule which stores the genetic data of organisms. It contains our unique genetic code. But why are you reading about it, a subject of biology on a technical website, you may think? Right? Well, what if I told you that soon, biology and technology won’t be far from merging. As a fact they already are, we have biotechnology, genetics, microbiology, etc. As of today, technology has been used to understand biology in a better way, but in the upcoming era, biology would be helping technology to survive. Yes, you read right.
We, humans operate devices and produce a lot of data. Recording and storing data is something we have done since humans started writing. Recording journals, accounts, references, quotations, stories and whatnot. We discovered or invented something, and we wrote about it. Due to all this curation of data. We, humans, were able to learn from the mistakes, achievements and experiences of others, and were able to move ahead and grow up to what we are today and where we are today.
Storing Data, loads of DATA
Google. We all use Google for a quick search regarding whatever we are looking for. But do you know that for each and every research done, data generated, is stored? Google is used to conduct around 40,000 searches per second which will be more than 3.5 billion searches per day and around 1.2 trillion searches in a single year and these number are increasing. 20 percent of the queries are new and won’t be asked ever again. Every google search uses more than 1000 computer systems to retrieve the data and that data has to travel at least 1500 miles on the average back and forth from the data center before it can reach you. So in each second, around 1.7 MB of data is created by each user in a second. Now multiply it by several users, search queries and all the seconds in a day. Mind-boggling, is it? I know it is.
So what is the problem? We need space. A lot of space to store all of this data. And not just space, we also need resources to store and maintain this data. We have electromagnetic devices which are our best option for storage, but they have their own limitations, and if we don’t act soon enough, we would be running out of resources and storage to maintain data
What can be done?
As I mentioned earlier, that soon there will be a time when biology will have to jump in to save technology. Well, it is already in process. Scientists, researchers and giant tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. are investing in something called DNA Digital Data Storage. In simple words, it will allow us to store large amounts of data that we were storing on electromagnetic drives on to strands of DNA. Our DNA consists of Nucleotides which are long chains of A, T, C and G. These will be used to store our data. Naturally, information of our body and our biology is stored in these chains of DNA, scientists are working hard on developing efficient technology to help with storage.
Are you serious?
Quite. Storing data on traditional devices is quite fragile. It gets lost over time, and we can’t depend on it for a long time. But that’s not the case with DNA data storage. Recently a fossil of a horse was found, which dated back to 500,000 years and even with the current technology, we were able to successfully carry out its genome sequencing. So that tells us that data in DNA can be stored for a really long time. And it’s not just the stability for which DNA storage is being favored by researchers buth the highlight of the show is the storage capacity.
A simple bacteria such as E.Coli can be used to store data of 1019 bits per cubic centimeters. The density research done at Harvard University revealed that by going through such storage densities, all the data generated in 1 year can be easily stored in a single cubical structure made of DNA of edge 1 metre. This incredible storage and its ability to maintain the data for thousands of years to come by, make it a hot topic for research. The technology in current use is at Harvard by the name of CRISPR DNA-editing tech. Back in 2017, some images of human hands were stored in E.Coli and were retrievable accurately upto 90 percent. A lot of big tech firms are investing loads of money in developing this technology as soon as possible. A lot of breakthroughs have been made, but a fight for making it cost efficiency is still being fought. Hopefully, we will make it soon.
Thanks for reading!