Database in DNA


The multi-billion dollar data storage industry globally may undergo a revolutionary makeover in the next few years. If the latest breakthrough achieved by Harvard scientists is anything to go by, genomes and DNA, considered the lifeblood of biological life, may become the primary synthetic material for storage of digitised data into billions of terabytes. Genetic code in the biological cells may well be harnessed to not only store huge databases but also retrieve whenever required. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Medical school teams’ cutting edge research have apparently cracked the code in DNA strands that can store, carry and make available large databases on a real time basis. Even when healthy living cells with stored data were to be infected by bacteria or virus and undergo transformation, no damage or corruption to the data retrieved was seen. Once this is to be commercialised in the near future, the data storage industry based on hard disks, flash and cloud storage would become passé shortly. Major global data storage players like Dell, EMC, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Netapp may have to seriously reinvent their operations and engage top geneticists, microbiologists and genome scientists to stay in business. Data storage would not only cost a fraction of what customers pay for hard disks or cloud space but the huge linkages in microbiology, genetics and computing will change the face of industry. Even individuals data storage devices will undergo a sea change as computer discs made way for pen drives, cloud storage etc. Once the genome-DNA based databases become a reality, all these devices may have to be consigned to the dustbin. What scientists are expecting is that even power consumption for such microbes-based data storage would be negligible. Already, the flash storage solutions offered by data biggies was 40 times better with 50 per cent lower power consumption. Data management on flash has already become hugely different vis-à-vis the input and output arrays on hard disks. Harvard scientists may not be contented with data storage or retrieval on cells as their future task is also cut out. They may like to develop molecular recording devices based on cells and further engineer the system so that these new instruments could even memorise the information. If these were to be achieved, human development and evolution could be understood from a different perspective. The molecular recording and memorising devices could even interpret the development of specialised cells in the brain from neurons in stem cells. Understanding development paradigms at each stage will only revolutionise the medical responses to a range of diseases from cancer to hemorrhages etc. Kudos to the latest breakthrough made by Harvard scientists that’s being described as ‘bio-inspiring engineering’ at its best.

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