Thursday, 18 October, 2018

CRISPR used to store images and a movie inside living bacteria

CRISPR used to store images and a movie inside living bacteria CRISPR used to store images and a movie inside living bacteria
Johnnie Parks | 15 July, 2017, 05:00

One of the latest achievements in the field of DNA data storage comes from Harvard University which for the first time demonstrated CRISPR can be used to encode information in bacterial DNA.

First, scientists used this technology to record in the DNA image of the hand during each of the 21 colors of the pixels has been encoded in the nucleotide sequence of the synthetic protospatharios.

A team of biologists took advantage of the bacterial defence mechanism on which the gene editing system CRISPR is based to write an animated GIF, pixel by pixel, into a population of bacteria. Then, just like they did in their experiment, the data could be retrieved simply by sequencing the genomes of the cells it is stored in.

Scientists have played back a movie encoded in the DNA of living cells, a first.

The authors also pointed out that they were able to uncover underlying principles of the CRISPR/Cas adaptation system, including sequence determinants of spacer acquisition that are relevant for understanding both the basic biology of bacterial adaptation and its technological applications. One part that could be used more frequently, suggests the Wyss/Harvard team, is the ability to write information into the genome of a living cell by the addition of nucleotides over time.

In interviews, lead author Seth Shipman suggests that it's a proof of concept exercise meant to model a future in which cells record a kind of living record of their own existences.

As the paper explains, "When harnessed, this system has the potential to write arbitrary information into the genome". The advantages of DNA storage are pretty obvious, Regalado reports.

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In this scheme, cells themselves could be induced to record molecular events - such as changes in gene expression over time - in their own genomes. In this case, the scientists were able to recreate the image series by decoding the DNA of the offspring of bacteria they'd altered. Reading of DNA sequence has allowed to reproduce the video with 90% accuracy.

Erlich says one benefit of hosting data in living cells like bacteria is better protection. 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 said that recording sequential events like a movie at a molecular level is key to the idea of reinventing the concept and foundations of recording using molecular engineering. Near the CRISPR section of the genome are genes that code for a family of enzymes called Cas, whose job is to slice through DNA strands.

CRISPR is a group of DNA and proteins that acts as an immune system to a number of bacteria, vaccinating them with the genetic memories of viral infections. So far, geneticists and medical researchers have explored the tool's utility in medicine, as cure for diseases or other genetic enhancements.

The researcher who discovered AcrIIA4, Joseph Bondy-Denomy of UC San Francisco, foresees these anti-CRISPR proteins becoming a standard part of CRISPR gene therapy, given along with CRISPR-Cas9 to disable gene editing after a fixed period of time to prevent random off-target cutting.

Shipman told the BBC the team wanted to eventually use the technique to create "molecular recorders".

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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