Researchers Find Big Data Potential in Synthetic DNA; Sriram Kosuri Comments

Geneticists at Harvard University have discovered a technique for storing and retrieving large amounts of data in a DNA microchip the size of a flash drive, Information Week reports.

Kevin Fogarty writes that the George Church-led research team stored as much as 5.5 petabits, or 5.5 million gigabits per cubic millimeter, on less than a thousandth of a gram of DNA.

That amount translates to an entire genetics textbook, the report says.

The DNA microchips, also known as DNA microarrays, contain thousands of synthetic DNA strands on a small glass plate and are encased in plastic.

Sriram Kosuri, lead researcher in the data storage portion of the study, said finding stored data in the microchip would require scrolling through the whole chip.

Citing the NIH National Genome Institute, Fogarty reports DNA microarrays are often used to identify genetic mutations.

Doctors insert a patient’s problematic DNA into the microarray and see what errors result, according to the report.

In February, the head of a National Institute of Standards and Technology lab said the agency is working on standards for big data technologies.

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