Scientists exploring the archiving potential of DNA conducted a test in which error-free data was downloaded after the equivalent of 2,000 years.
The next challenge is to find a way of searching for information encoded in strands of DNA floating in a drop of liquid.
Lead researcher Dr Robert Grass, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), said: “If you go back to medieval times in Europe, we had monks writing in books to transmit information for the future, and some of those books still exist. Now, we save information on hard drives, which wear out in a few decades.”
DNA has a “language” not unlike the binary code used in computers, said Dr Grass. While a hard drive uses zeros and ones to represent data, the DNA code is written in sequences of four chemical nucleotides, known as A,C,T and G.
But DNA can pack more information into a smaller space, and also has the advantage of durability.
In theory, a fraction of an ounce of DNA could store more than 300,000 terabytes of data, said Dr Grass. And archaeological finds had shown that DNA dating back hundreds of thousands of years can still be sequenced today.