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DNA data storage in temperature-responsive compartments

DNA data storage has the potential to enable extremely dense and stable information storage. However, parallel data access is challenging, to this end we develop temperature-responsive compartments that facilitate parallel and repeatable data access.

Since the world is generating increasingly more data, we are nearing a future in which storage space will run out. To address this problem researchers have been looking towards DNA as an alternative to hard disks and magnetic tape for data storage. Chemically synthesized DNA has demonstrated very durable and extremely dense data storage. Random access, that is reading only the desired data, has also been demonstrated in complex DNA databases using enzymatic reactions. This random access requires copying the original data-encoding DNA as the reading process is destructive. However, without organization, all DNA molecules in the copying reaction interact with one another. These interactions can lead to the exchange of DNA segments between molecules, which corrupts the original data.

We are developing synthetic microcompartments with a temperature-responsive membrane to prevent molecular crosstalk during random access in DNA databases. During DNA duplication, the temperature is raised, which reduces the permeability of the membrane, thereby preventing molecular crosstalk. Meanwhile, at low temperatures the membranes are more permeable such that copied data-encoding DNA can freely diffuse in and out of the compartments. By incorporating a chemical anchor in the original DNA it remains localized inside the compartments, allowing for repeated data access. We envision this technology will enable reliable large-scale and parallel data access in DNA databases.


Tom de Greef


Bas Bögels