Exabytes in a Test Tube: The Case for DNA Data Storage

With the right coding, the double helix could archive our entire civilization

12 min read
Opening illustration for this feature article.
Illustration: Anatomy Blue

Five thousand years ago, a man died in the Alps. It’s possible he died from a blow to the head, or he may have bled to death after being shot in the shoulder with an arrow. There’s a lot we don’t know about Ötzi (named for the Ötztal Alps, where he was discovered), despite the fact that researchers have spent almost 30 years studying him.

On the other hand, we know rather a lot about Ötzi’s physiological traits and even his clothes. We know he had brown eyes and a predisposition for cardiovascular diseases. He had type O positive blood and was lactose intolerant. The coat he was wearing was patched together using the leather of multiple sheep and goats, and his hat was made from a brown bear’s hide. All of this information came from sequencing the DNA of both Ötzi and the clothing he wore.

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Damaged Hearts Next in Line for Powerful mRNA Therapies

COVID-19 vaccine technology now points toward repairing ravages of heart attacks

3 min read
Light and dark pink sections of a microscopic view of heart tissue

Light micrograph of a section through the endocardium, the membrane that lines the heart (across top), following a heart attack. Necrotic (dead) muscle fibres (across bottom) have stained a deeper red, but their nuclei no longer stain.

CNRI/Science Source

The messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines, including ones made by Moderna and Pfizer, notched some famous successes and pioneered the use of mRNA technology along the way. Now, scientists are applying testing similar technologies as treatments for a variety of conditions, including heart injury. New research presented in April at the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biomedicine 2022 conference shows that mRNA can help heart cells regenerate after being damaged from a heart attack—and has the potential to be an effective therapy. Other recent research treating cardiac injury using similar approaches has also shown promise. Should these treatments be effective in people, they would be among the first to heal damage after a heart attack, which current treatments for heart attack don't really do.

“A real solution is not provided to the patient,” said Dr. Maria Clara Labonia, a medical doctor and Ph.D student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands who is the lead author of the study. “So many aims are towards new therapeutic strategies.”

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Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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