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In the Backbone

Researchers have come up with a new way of storing data in DNA, Scientific American reports.

A team led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Olgica Milenkovic developed a 'DNA punch card' approach to get around the current limitations of DNA-based data storage systems, which relies on DNA synthesis. As they report in Nature Communications, Milenkovic and her colleagues instead devised a storage system that encodes data in the sugar phosphate backbone of DNA, rather than in the sequence itself, using 'nicks' at predetermined spots to store data. This approach, they report, leads to a reduced writing latency and is highly reliable.

According to Scientific American, the researchers applied their approach to E. coli and encoded the Gettysburg Address and a picture of the Lincoln memorial, which they were then able to read.

Milenkovic tells Scientific American that older DNA storage approaches can store a lot more data, but that their way is less expensive. "The biggest problem with DNA data storage right now isn't density; it's cost," she adds. "And our costs are really low and can be made even lower.

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