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Scientists Have Stored a Movie, a Computer Virus, and an Amazon Gift Card In a Single Gram of DNA

Researchers Store Computer Operating System and Short Movie on DNA Humanity may soon generate more data than hard drives or magnetic tape can handle, a problem that has scientists turning to nature’s age-old solution for information-storage—DNA.

image/text credit: Columbia University News

In a new study in Science, a pair of researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) show that an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA’s nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides.

image/text credit: Columbia University News

They demonstrate that this technology is also extremely reliable.DNA is an ideal storage medium because it’s ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place.


As demonstrated by the recent recovery of DNA from the bones of a 430,000-year-old human ancestor found in a cave in Spain.

All of Your Data in a Drop of DNA from Columbia University News on Vimeo.

“DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete—if it does, we have bigger problems,” said study coauthor Yaniv Erlich, a computer science professor at Columbia Engineering, a member of Columbia’s Data Science Institute, and a core member of the NYGC.