Researchers at North Carolina State University were able to view data previously stored in DNA.
DNA data storage is an attractive technology: you can store a lot of data for a long time and do it energy efficiently. However, until now, it has not been possible to view the data in a file stored as DNA.
The advantage of our method is that it is more efficient in terms of time and money. If you’re not sure which file has the data you want, you don’t need to sequence all of your DNA in a search. Instead, you can sequence much smaller portions of the DNA files and preview them.
Kyle Tomek, lead author of this paper and a graduate student at the University of North Carolina
Users “name” their data files by attaching DNA sequences, called primer-binding sequences, to the ends of DNA strands: they are the ones that store the information.
Most systems use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify and retrieve the file. Specifically, they use a small DNA primer that matches a specific sequence to identify the DNA strands that contain the desired file.
A primer is a short nucleic acid fragment or linked molecule that serves as the starting point for DNA replication.
The system then uses PCR to make multiple copies of the corresponding DNA strands and then sequences the entire sample. Because the process creates multiple copies of the target DNA strands, the target strand signal is stronger than the rest of the sample, allowing the target DNA sequence to be identified and the file read.
However, one of the problems that DNA data storage researchers have faced is that if two or more files have the same name, PCR will inadvertently copy fragments of multiple data files. As a result, users must give their files very clear names.