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Israeli scientists store digital information in DNA

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya have significantly optimized the process needed to store digital information on DNA, the Technion reported on Monday.

According to the press release, in a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the group demonstrated storage of information in a density of more than 10 petabytes, or ten million gigabytes, in a single gram, while significantly improving the writing process. This, theoretically, allows for storing all the information stored on YouTube in a single teaspoon.

The study was led by research student Leon Anavy, a student at the Technion Faculty of Computer Science, under the guidance of Prof. Zohar Yakhini of the Technion Faculty of Computer Science and IDC's Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at IDC, in collaboration with Prof. Roee Amit's Synthetic Biology Laboratory at the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, the release said.

The optimization of the DNA information storage process may make it a viable alternative to traditional forms of information storage. As server farms are responsible for about 2% of global carbon emission, similar to the emission if global air traffic, and for 3% of global electricity consumption – a rate higher than the entire electricity consumption of the UK – DNA-based information storage may also help reduce our carbon footprint.

According to the Technion, the group has developed advanced error-correction mechanisms to overcome errors that are an integral part of biological-physical processes, like the ones used for DNA information storage. "Thanks to the use of error-correction codes that are tailored to the unique encoding we created, we were able to perform highly efficient coding and to successfully recover the information," Anavy said. "When working in a system consisting of millions of parts, even one-in-a-million events occur, which can disrupt the reading. Careful coding allowed us to overcome these problems."

According to the researchers, "the technology we presented in the paper has the potential to streamline further processes in synthetic biology and biotechnology. "We believe that in the coming years, we will see a significant increase in the use of synthetic DNA in research and industry," they said.

Leon Sverdlov