Scientists encode old racehorse movie into live E. coli DNA


"This groundbreaking technology advances the field of DNA-based information storage by leveraging the biological machinery of living cells to record, archive and propagate that information, in addition to potentially providing a new way to study dynamic biological and developmental processes inside the living body", said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.

It is now the first movie ever to be encoded in the DNA of a living cell, where it can be retrieved at will and multiplied indefinitely as the host divides and grows.

To the left is an image of a human hand, which was encoded into nucleotides and captured by the CRISPR-Cas adaptation system in living bacteria. When researchers sequenced the bacterial DNA, they were able to retrieve and replay the moving images with 90 percent accuracy.

It took quite a while for the transfer to be completed as it took whole five days to complete five frames of a galloping horse from the Eadweard Muybridge's photo experiments in the late 19th century which are considered to be the first experiments with movies. Scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of Massachusetts discovered a trio of anti-CRISPR proteins last year. Shipman says that the team wanted to "reference some of the original images that humankind ever put in the natural world", like the cave drawings of hands.

In future work, the team will focus on establishing molecular recording devices in other cell types and on further engineering the system so that it can memorize biological information.

What are the challenges and barriers that have hindered widespread adoption of Genetic Testing? "The actual timing information is carried in the order of the sequences of the genome as you read it".

The revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing technology holds huge potential to cure all manner of genetic diseases and disorders, efficiently deleting and replacing faulty genes at a fraction of the cost of other gene therapies. When there's a foreign invasion on any given bacteria, the proteins cut a part of the attacker's DNA, and CRISPR then includes it into the bacterial genome for another enzyme to turn into a matching guide RNA.

Details about producing cell-level blockbusters appeared July 12 in the journal Nature, in an article entitled "CRISPR-Cas Encoding of a Digital Movie into the Genomes of a Population of Living Bacteria". From here, the E. Coli's CRISPR system grabbed the DNA and incorporated it into its own genome.

In their study, the researchers looked at human cells in culture, delivering Crispr-Cas9, and then several hours late, the anti-Crispr protein. The information, stored away as an array of sequences in the CRISPR locus, can be recalled and used to reconstruct a timeline of events. It is one of the most rapidly growing segments in molecular diagnostics industry, which helps in delivering customized health services or personalized medicine. On Wednesday, Harvard scientists announced they could use it to store GIFs.

Shipman told the BBC the team wanted to eventually use the technique to create "molecular recorders". Approximately 75-80% of all cancers are diagnosed in people aged 55 or older, and this pattern is expected to increase by 2020. The team decided to hack this system for their own purposes, says study co-author Seth Shipman, a neuroscience researcher at Harvard University. But what if, instead, we think of them as biological computer bits, storing the smallest unit of information?



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