BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A team of researchers from Harvard University managed to fulfill one of the most unusual and amazing achievements in genetics. They were able to store dynamic images into DNA. More precisely, they encoded the GIF of a historic horse into E. coli bacteria.
CRISPR lets scientists cut out DNA sequences and alter them
They were able to store data into DNA by using the famous gene-editing tool CRISPR (which stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”). So far, geneticists and medical researchers have explored the tool’s utility in medicine, as cure for diseases or other genetic enhancements. However, Harvard scientists showed the potential of CRISPR is much bigger than we thought.
CRISPR uses certain proteins which act as a cutting tool. More precisely, scientists are able to select sequences of DNA they want to work with, cut them from DNA strip, alter them in whatever ways they like, and then put them back. They can also opt to replace those sequences with other genes and perform various enhancements.
Scientists successfully put a GIF in bacteria
This shows that including images in bacterial DNA is possible with the help of the tool. However, introducing a non-static image, such as the GIF, raised several challenges for the scientists. With the help of CRISPR’s proteins, called Cas1 and Cas2, they genetically encoded each frame of the GIF into the DNA and were able to place them into the DNA with almost 100 percent accuracy.
The bacteria could multiply with the extra information it acquired, and even transmitted it to future generations. Even though everything took place at a molecular scale, it is still a huge achievement. Researchers now have big dreams, and think of a future when cells will be able to keep a photographic record of their own history. All the results of the study were published in the journal Nature.
Image Source: Public Domain Pictures