Could ‘living DNA hard drives’ solve the coming data storage crisis?

Credit: Bioengineer
Credit: Bioengineer

Scientists working with CRISPR technology have made advancements in encoding data inside the DNA of bacteria, essentially creating “living hard drives” which could be the future for information storage.

While storing data in DNA is not a new idea, systems biologist Harris Wang at Columbia University in New York is one of the scientists working on streamlining the encoding process. 

“DNA is a ubiquitous information storage medium, it’s already where we store all of our cells’ information, it’s everywhere,” Wang said on CTV’s Your Morning [February 4].

Wang said the benefits to using DNA as storage include its capacity, which is about “one thousand times denser” than the current most compact hard drives. Other advantages include the fact that DNA uses “about a million times less” power than computers and that the technology won’t become obsolete, the way older storage technology like floppy disks have.

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The other benefit of encoding DNA with information is its security applications – unless you have the “correct keys” to sequence the cells DNA – you will not be able to decode the information stored in it, Wang said.

“We’re very excited about this potential…the idea of being able to conceal information in plain sight,” he said.

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