Researchers Replay Digital Movie Encoded in Bacterial DNA

Researchers Replay Digital Movie Encoded in Bacterial DNA

"The horse was one of the first examples of a moving image and very recognisable", Seth Shipman, who led the work, told the LA Times.

In a paper published today in Nature, Harvard researchers describe using a Crispr system to insert bits of DNA encoded with photos and a GIF of a galloping horse into live bacteria.

"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.

The image of a human hand (left) was encoded into bacterial DNA and then extracted (right) after several generations of bacterial growth. While the presence of the inhibitor prior to any CRISPR operation "almost completely abolishes overall gene editing", its "timed addition" after initiating gene editing can influence the amount of time that Cas9 is active in the nucleus, "thereby selectively limiting off-target editing".

The team included researchers in the lab of Jennifer Doudna, one of the inventors of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, who determined how the anti-CRISPR protein binds to the CRISPR-Cas9 complex.

Later, the team cracked open the bacteria, sequenced the area they had spliced in DNA, and translated it back to pixel data. We often think of its units, the As, Cs, Ts, and Gs, as letters of the words in an instruction manual. For instance, in 2015, a team of Chinese scientists made headlines when they used CRISPR in human embryos to prevent a blood disorder called beta thalessemia. That means recreating the movie required comparing the DNA from lots of different cells. "Here, the authors use low-cost DNA synthesis and genome editing tools to put the information from pictures and movies into the genome of a living cell". "Such a molecular recorder will allow us to eventually collect data from every cell in the brain at once, without the need to gain access, to observe the cells directly, or disrupt the system to extract genetic material or proteins". Scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of Massachusetts discovered a trio of anti-CRISPR proteins last year.

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.

Anti-Crispr proteins stop Crispr-Cas9 from working, by mimicking DNA, and effectively tricking Crispr-Cas9 into binding with it, and then never letting go. No animals were harmed in the process of encoding the films mentioned above, but the same can't be said for all bacteria cells. But what if they could coerce living cells, like large populations of bacteria, into using their own genomes as a biological hard drive to can record information that can be accessed anytime? "The actual timing information is carried in the order of the sequences of the genome as you read it".

"The sequential nature of CRISPR makes it an appealing system for recording events over time". The bugs treated the strips of DNA like invading viruses and dutifully added them to their own genomes. The researchers then simply needed to sequence the bacteria's DNA to retrieve the data and reconstruct the animation. For instance, we could make cells that record information about what's happening in the nearby environment.