back to article Squillions of bytes in one cup of DNA

It’s not the first time that digital data has been encoded on DNA, but new research published today in Nature brings bio-storage a significant step closer to reality. Scientists have previously demonstrated that DNA is viable as a digital storage medium – for example, Stanford University demonstrated last year that a bit …


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  1. andreas koch
    Paris Hilton

    The open questions are:

    - How does one apply copy protection to that?

    - Do the rounded corners infringe patents?

    - Is the encoder/ decoder Lightning compatible?

    - Is it tweetable?

    1. ~mico

      At least you can copy&paste it...

      (with laser tweezers)

      a pity we don't have the laser shark icon...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The open questions are:

      Copy protection: cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (arguably the worst anti-cancer drug ever). Sadly it also permanently read protects the DNA. But we shouldn't let a little side effect like data loss get in the way of something as important as DRM.

      Rounded corners: maybe we'll get lucky and no one will notice that a helix is a three dimensional projection of a rounded quadrilateral with straight sides approaching length 0?

      Lightning compatibility could be provided via the approved mortgage compatible cabling.

      For an additional fee it could be made tweetable by incorporating into Songbird(TM) of your choice.

    3. Christos Georgiou

      Re: The open questions are:

      - How does one apply copy protection to that?

      Ban sex.

      Prudes and copyright holders unite!

    4. miknik

      a cupful of DNA would hold “a hundred million hours of high-definition video”

      Provided I can select the content of the high definition video then from a hundred million hours worth I could supply many cupfuls of DNA.

      Have I just created a perpetual motion machine?

  2. Esskay

    Adds new meaning

    To the term "computer virus".

    Putting in my preorder for Norton Vaccination Clinic 2025.

  3. Graham Marsden

    Can I...

    ... patent the condom as a firewall?

    1. Adam 1

      Re: Can I...

      Can I patent this guy as a firewall?

  4. adnim

    "Both reading and writing DNA...

    are error-prone, particularly if a DNA ‘letter’ repeats in the string"

    So... Hook it up to an Intel 4004.

  5. Allan George Dyer

    Why is there a mammoth carcass in the storeroom?

    Don't worry, it's just the archive storage, I'll need your help tomorrow when we make a copy and take it off-site.

    Bring a warm coat, and a map of the tundra.

  6. Martin Budden Silver badge


    Now I can write my memoirs, encode the book in DNA, insert the DNA into my (presumably in-vitro fertilised) children, and my memoirs will be passed down to all my descendants, forever!

  7. Paul J Turner

    I/O is rubbish...

    Hey, that's my favourite bit!

  8. Magani

    Baby steps?

    "So we figured, let's break up the code into lots of overlapping fragments going in both directions, with indexing information showing where each fragment belongs in the overall code, and make a coding scheme that doesn't allow repeats."

    While I've never written an operating system from scratch, this seems to be a really convoluted way of solving a problem.

    Ring me when it can print out 'Hello world'.

  9. Allan George Dyer

    Long-term reliability?

    You store your lizard-based blueprints for your galactic-domination army on a convenient planet, but when you come back in 65 million years you find:

    Raptor 2.0

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quick, invent Mitosis Rights Management?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Naughty naughty!

    I hope they had permission from the estate of MLK. That speech is still under copyright, and those who inherited the rights are very possessive of their cash cow.

  12. Simon_The_Engineer

    There are 16GB SD card in the market and we expecting the volume to be double every half year, what is the meaning for DNA storage ?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Available storage 13 TB in a space 100micrometres long by 10micrometres in diameter

      But the cell nucleus is considerably smaller.

      I/O bandwidth may not be too impressive.

  13. John H Woods Silver badge

    Obligatory ...

  14. Great Bu


    "Kids ! I'm just taking the dog / network attached storage out for his walk, don't try to access his files for 10 minutes....."

  15. Vince Lewis 1


    The bacteria evolved and corrupted my entire porn collection.

  16. JassMan

    Has nobody thoughtof the children?

    Using DNA sounds like an incredibly dangerous thing to do. It only needs a gene splicing virus from some GMO experiment to accidently insert a DNA stored copy of Wikipedia into a cell and next thing it will become self aware and takeover the world.

    Frivolity aside, couldn't they have used some other protein sequence to achieve the same effect? Using GNA, PNA would have less chance of accidentally becoming entangled with DNA. TNA may also be useful but the ability to create hybrid DNA-TNA may come with its own problems.

    1. Tony Haines

      Re: Has nobody thoughtof the children?

      "Frivolity aside, couldn't they have used some other protein sequence to achieve the same effect?"

      Theoretically perhaps, but practically using proteins has some issues.

      1) Protein sequencing isn't anywhere near the same league as DNA sequencing. We can just about determine the sequence of a few residues from one end of a protein. If it's pure.

      2) Proteins often don't store well. DNA in dry form stores really well.

      3) In-vitro protein synthesis is not easy. The usual way to get a protein sample is to produce a gene encoding it then put it in an organism which will make it for you. Then extract and purify it.

      So apart from writing, reading and the wait in between it's a potentially effective approach.

      To answer what I think was your real concern, creating what is to a cell essentially random DNA really isn't a big risk. Apart from that, the paper isn't about storing information in living cells, all the above comments notwithstanding.

  17. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up


    ... didn't the Mice do this already? Then the Golgafrincham B-Ark turned up and corrupted the data...

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Prior art!

    ...if only I can find where I put my notes 20-odd years ago. DNA sequences as quanery string encoding.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data transfer failure

    just jizzed in her hair

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