Researchers encoded a movie and then played back from DNA in living cells. The work was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.
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Researcher Seth Shipman, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, Boston say the ability to record such sequential events like a movie at the molecular level is key to the idea of reinventing the very concept of recording using molecular engineering. In development cells themselves induced to record molecular events. Such as changes in gene expression over time in their own genomes. The information retrieved simply by sequencing the genomes of the cells it is stored in.
The researchers show that DNA also used to encode not just genetic information. But any arbitrary sequential information into a genome. For this they turned to the cutting-edge, NIH-funded gene editing technology CRISPR.
They first demonstrated that they could encode and retrieve an image of the human hand in DNA inserted into bacteria. They then similarly encoded and reconstructed frames from a classic 1870s race horse in motion sequence of photos. An early forerunner of moving pictures.
Translated five frames in motion photo sequence into DNA
The researchers had previously shown that they could use CRISPR to store sequences of DNA in bacteria. CRISPR is a group of proteins and DNA that act as an immune system in some bacteria, vaccinating them with genetic memories of viral infections.
When a virus infects a bacterium, CRISPR cuts out part of the foreign DNA and stores it in the bacteria’s own genome. The bacterium then uses the stored DNA to recognize the virus and defend against future attacks. The researchers then similarly translated five frames from the race horse in motion photo sequence into DNA. Over the course of five days, they sequentially treated bacteria with a frame of translated DNA. Afterwards, they were able to reconstruct the movie with 90 percent accuracy by sequencing the bacterial DNA.
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Although the technology used in variety of ways, the researchers ultimately hope to use it to study the brain.
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