Since 2016, Microsoft has been working with the University of Washington to develop the first device to automatically encode digital information into DNA and back to bits again. “So far, DNA storage has been carried out by hand in the lab,” reports MIT Technology Review. But now Microsoft and researchers at the University of Washington “say they created a machine that converts electronic bits to DNA and back without a person involved.” From the report: The gadget, made from about $10,000 in parts, uses glass bottles of chemicals to build DNA strands, and a tiny sequencing machine from Oxford Nanopore to read them out again. According to a publication on March 21 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the team was able to store and retrieve just a single word — “hello” — or five bytes of data. What’s more, the process took 21 hours, mostly because of the slow chemical reactions involved in writing DNA. While the team considered that a success for their prototype, a commercially useful DNA storage system would have to store data millions of times faster.

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