March 19, 2018

Scientists have recorded a video on the DNA of bacteria

15 July 2017, 05:02 | Winifred Adams

Anti-CRISPR Protein Reduces Off-Target Effects

Scientists Used CRISPR to Put a GIF Inside Living DNA

While encoding a short film into DNA is impressive, the scientists aren't planning to create some type of cellular-level Netflix app. The Muybridge clip is intended to show the scope for the CRISPR system to turn living cells into recording devices, pulling information from their surroundings and keeping a sequential record within their genome.

Harvard scientists have been able to encode a GIF of a galloping horse into the DNA of living cells, creating a man-made "biological recording".

Research at UC Berkeley and elsewhere suggests that CRISPR-Cas9 constantly feints with the cell's DNA repair system: as the enzyme cuts at its target site, the cell repairs the DNA, and CRISPR-Cas9 cuts again, repeating this vicious cycle until a mutation arises in the DNA that prevents enzyme binding, at which point the CRISPR-Cas9 molecule moves on to find another binding site.

Afterwards, they were able to reconstruct the movie with 90% accuracy by sequencing the bacterial DNA.

Church and his team want to give living cells the biological equivalent of the "black box" found in aircraft that records all sorts of key data. Except instead of getting the code for a virus, E. coli got the code for a movie and an image. We often think of its units, the As, Cs, Ts, and Gs, as letters of the words in an instruction manual.

Ultimately, Shipman hopes to use the technique to study the development of the brain. "We wanted to see if when the bacterial DNA captures the new information, it captures it in order".

This doesn't mean you're going to be watching the latest season of "Game of Thrones" via your parakeet or whatever genetically modified pet you choose to store your video files on in the future, though it does technically make such a future possible.

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The five frame GIF of a horse and rider was placed into the live bacteria frame by frame. Then, they introduced their custom sequences into a population of E. coli bacteria, creating temporary pores in the cells' membranes with electric pulses. The integration of the CRISPR system holds out the promise of affordable and accurate storage and retrieval from biological systems. The similar method was followed to encode and reconstruct frames from a classic race horse in motion sequence of photos from the 1870s (an early predecessor of motion pictures).

The researchers, who published their work in the journal Nature, encoded the frames in genetic material and stored them in living bacteria. They then created DNA codes that corresponded to each color and strung several codes together.

Then, the researchers inserted short DNA fragments containing these codes into bacteria, and the bacteria incorporated the fragments into their genome.

Although it may seem like this project would have very limited applications to real life, researchers say they have goals far beyond the scope of the current study.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (5R01MH103910), the National Human Genome Research Institute (5P50HG005550), Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (5R01NS045523), Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, and Wyss Institute.

Feynman's idea "was a seminal piece - it gave us a direction", said Leonard Adleman, a mathematician at the University of Southern California and co-inventor of one of the most used public cryptography systems, RSA (the A is for Adleman). They were able to store dynamic images into DNA.

For Shipman and Church, the immediate challenge is the brain.

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