Monday, August 17, 2015

DNA The Future Of Storage: How to store a Movie onto DNA?

There was a day in history , were Bill Gates Said
640K is more memory than anyone will ever need

Did Bill Gates really said this is a topic of debate.  Now the amount of data and information generating in each second is enormous. 

Where we are storing all these data ?
How long we can store all data ?  And there are many more questions to answer. The cost, security, ease of duplication, space and resources required.
Storing a movie to DNA
DNA The future of Data Storage 

Now in the changing world with free thinkers thinks that
There is always a way to do it better
Our nature has the answer for all our problems. Replicating the nature in a usable way is a mammoth task.

Do you ever dreamed about storing all your data in a pin point?

In this post we are discussing about something similar.

Think about a world were all the information in the internet stored in drop of liquid !
Billions of copies of the same can be made in a minute !
And what if all the information would be safe not just for your lifetime but for millions of lifetimes?

Do you think I am crazy?

To Harvard genetic professor Dr. George Church, its sounds like  the future.

Now, Church is focused on doing something no other scientist has succeeded in doing: coding a film onto tiny strands of DNA


In 1984 Dr. Walter Gilbert, who was the Mentor of Dr. Church at Harvard, published the first genome sequencing method.  This is not the first time Dr.Church trying to store information in DNA. In October 2012, Church succeeded in coding 20 million copies of his book, "Regenesis", on to DNA. Carefully converting each letter of  his book in to the alphabet of DNA.

He debuted this achievement on the Colbert Report, handing Stephen Colbert a slip of paper on which the millions of copies were contained in a tiny drop of liquid

I’ve been trying to read and write nucleic acids since I was a teenager

After the success of his book Church decided to take his research to next level

Coding Movie On To DNA

First movie to encoded in DNA is a 1902 French silent Film, "A Trip to the Moon ". This movie considered to be the first-ever science fiction film. This project is funded by film industry giant Technicolor.
A Trip to the moon will be the first movie ever coded in to DNA
A Trip to the moon will be the first movie ever coded in to DNA

How They Are Doing It ?

 The DNA that the team using  will be different from that found in living organisms. We can call it as an "Unnatural DNA", which is denser and more robust to store more information. The process of coding movie to DNA is a very complicated process. But it is something similar to the digitization process.

The first step is  the conversion of each pixels in the movie image in to a binary code based on the color. Based on the color it looks like 110010. This binary code in then converted into the chemical base Adenine(A), Guanine(G), Cytosine(C), Thymine(T). The same method will be used for the audio track as well.

After producing all these DNA stands with information, each stands will index with a chemical label. This index provides the information about the  position of the pixel or a sound in the movie. With special computer program such millions of  DNA strands can be arranged to crate the movie. All the movie stored in micro size. Millions of copies can be created with ease and fast.

Now  the question is to watch the movie. To watch the movie , all we need something to read the DNA and encode the movie- a DNA sequensor and a computer.
It’s a baby technology,We don’t want people to get expectations too high.

Future of This Technology 

Don't think that this technology will replace your DVD player soon. Its value in near future lies in archiving.  As we discussed at the beginning, storing data for a long time is a risky task. Now archived data kept on magnetic tapes in robotic libraries must be backed up every four years or so. It is a time consuming and risky copying practice.

We’ve been exponentially storing more and more data on devices that are fragile, Any company that is doing archiving is worried. They are worried that they will be the one that finally messes something up
 One day all our data can be stored in DNA in small vial and can make millions of copies of the same data very easily.  The storage space requirement for this is very minimal. Although other scientist are working with Synthetic polymers and fuses quarts crystals , Church is convinced that DNA is the solution to the world's archiving problem.


In addition to its miniscule size, DNA lasts for up to 700,000 years without proper storage. With proper storage, it can endure for millions. Therefore, information stored on DNA would not have to be re-saved every few years like current data storage methods require.

Billions of copies can be reproduced quickly and cheaply.
There is no other polymer that would be a priori cheaper to manufacture or easier to program than DNA
The cost of encoding Church's book to DNA was estimated around $1000 and decoding cost was around $1000.  The cost of DNA technology is dropping rapidly according to National Human Genome Research Institute.

For Church, DNA storage is a little science with big possibilities.

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About the Author

Prejeesh Sreedharan

Author & Editor

I am a Biotechnologist very much interested in #SciTech (Science And Technology). I closely follow the developments in medical science and life science. I am also very enthusiast in the world of electronics, information technology and robotics. I always looks for ways to make complicated things simpler. And I always believes simplest thing is the most complicated ones.


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