Bacteria promoted as storage medium

Forget disk, tape or even nanotechnology - Researchers in Japan say bacteria and DNA may be data retention devices in the future

A Japanese university has announced that scientists there have developed a new technology that uses bacteria DNA as a medium for storing data long-term, even for thousands of years.

Keio University has heralded the development of the new technology, which creates an artificial DNA that carries up to more than 100 bits of data within the genome sequence, according to the Japan Corporate News Network.

The universities say they have successfully encoded “e= mc2 1905!” — Einstein’s theory of relativity and the year he enunciated it — on the common soil bacteria, Bacillius subtilis.

While the technology would most likely first be used to track medication, it could also be used to store text and images for many millennia, thwarting the longevity issues associated with today’s disk and tape storage systems — which only store data for up to 100 years in most cases.

The artificial DNA that carries the data to be preserved makes multiple copies of the DNA and inserts the original as well as identical copies into the bacterial genome sequence. The multiple copies work as backup files to counteract natural degradation of the preserved data.

Bacteria have particularly compact DNA, which is passed down from generation to generation. The information stored in that DNA can also be passed on for long-term preservation of large data files, the scientists say.

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