A team of scientists achieved a new breakthrough in the process of storing and then replaying data on DNA. They managed to encode a GIF file into the cells of a living bacteria, an E. coli, and then reconstructed and played it back.
This is not the first experiment in the area, as researchers started out by encoding images. Then, scientists managed to store significant amounts of data, including movies and an executable file. However, this is the first time that science encoded and then played back a video such as this one in living bacteria cells.
The team behind this accomplishment also points out that this is more than just a cinematic breakthrough and milestone.
The GIF Encoded Was Already Famous, Not It Will Be Even More So
The GIF encoded by the team was already famous on its own. It is known as The Horse in Motion or Sallie Gardner at a Gallop. This series of photographs, which show a galloping horse, is sometimes cited as being the first silent film.
Harvard University researchers, which are behind the new study, state that they want to “turn cells into historians”. Namely, they point out that their technique enabled living cells to become real-time “molecular recorders”. They believe that this could also allow them to capture unseen biological developments taking place inside the body.
“We envision a biological memory system that’s much smaller and more versatile than today’s technologies, which will track many events non-intrusively over time,” states Seth Shipman, part of the team.
Shipman, who is a neuroscientist, is looking to investigate how brain cells change over time. This is no easy feat, as the current technology cannot reach and register everything. So the researchers believe that one way of studying this would be to ‘convince’ the cells to start recording themselves.
Cells to Monitor and Offer Information about Themselves
To test this possibility, the scientists converted each pixel of the GIF into a DNA code. Then, they used CRISPR, the gene editing technology, to embed this sequence of information into the E.coli bacteria’s genome. They added a new animation frame each day.
After a week, the researchers sequenced DNA regions extracted from the bacteria and played back the movie. They were able to do so, as 90 percent of the GIF encoded was still intact.
If this ability could be naturally turned on and enabled to register other types of data, scientists believe they could be able to track, monitor or predict disease or health dangers in real time.
Image Source: Wikimedia