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Store It for a Spell in DNA

New interest from tech giants like Microsoft is re-energizing the DNA computing field, Scientific American writes.

Computing data is largely stored on hard drives or at large data centers, but those storage formats have lifespans of, at most, 30 years, Sciam says. DNA, by contrast, is being teased out of ancient samples, including a horse that's some 700,000 years old, indicating that DNA could serve as a long-lived data storage device.

Microsoft Research, Sciam writes, is now paying Twist Bioscience to create some 10 million DNA strands designed by Microsoft computer scientists to store data, while memory manufacturer Micron Technology is also funding DNA digital storage research.

"Our goal is to demonstrate an end-to-end system where we encode files to DNA, have the molecules synthesized, store them for a long time and then recover them by taking DNA out and sequencing it," Karin Strauss, a computer architect at Microsoft Research, says. "Start with bits and go back to bits."

Currently, writing DNA is too expensive, the University of Washington's Georg Seelig says. But Sciam adds that this interest from Microsoft, Micron, and others in tech might lead to a drop in those costs.

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