Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Test Tube Encyclopedia

Researchers at the University of Washington are collecting pictures from people from around the world to encode them in DNA, Wired reports. It adds that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is particularly interested in DNA-based data storage.

UW's Luis Ceze and his colleagues started a social media campaign — #MemoriesinDNA — to crowdsource their collection, Wired notes. UW researchers have previously encoded music videos and even malware into DNA, while others have encoded a horse gif and a text from Archimedes.

While researchers have encoded data in DNA, it's trickier to decode it, Wired says. It adds that querying DNA files would likely involve developing a string of DNA that matches features of the image attached to a magnetic nanoparticle. After adding those queries to a test tube, the file DNA could be drawn out by a magnet to be sequenced and processed into an image.

The push for DNA storage comes from the need to house more and more data. "Molecules offer a very different approach to 'computing' than the 0s and 1s of our existing digital systems," DARPA's Anne Fischer says. "The global community is creating data at a tremendous rate, and developing new approaches to access and process this information is critical to address looming shortfalls in storage capacity and computational speed."