Researchers Replay Digital Movie Encoded in Bacterial DNA


The other notable achievement to take away from this success with the horse and rider GIF is that the researchers were able to store and retrieve the data in the DNA of a living organism, despite the constant dynamism of live cells which change, divide, move, and die.

Usually those DNA chunks contain information about the cell - but researchers created new sequences that corresponded to pixels on an image of a horse galloping. "One day, we may be able to follow all the developmental decisions that a differentiating neuron is taking from an early stem cell to a highly specialized type of cell in the brain, leading to a better understanding of how basic biological and developmental processes are choreographed", said Shipman, who is also mentored by neurobiologist and co-author Jeffrey Macklis, the HMS Max and Anne Wien Professor of Life Sciences and Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University.

"What this shows us is that we can get the information in, we can get the information out, and we can understand how the timing works too", he said.

With the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing techniques used in the GIF-encoding experiment, scientists hope to develop bacteria that act as biological sensors.

"We want to use neurons to record a molecular history of the brain through development".

The DNA cut - known as a double strand break - closely mimics the kinds of mutations that occur naturally, for instance after chronic sun exposure. In doing so, we push the technical limits of this information storage system and optimize strategies to minimize those limitations.

So far, much of the research into using DNA for storage has involved synthetic DNA made by scientists. For inserting the GIF, it took five days to convey the sequences frame-by-frame into the cells. When there's a foreign invasion on any given bacteria, the proteins cut a part of the attacker's DNA, and CRISPR then includes it into the bacterial genome for another enzyme to turn into a matching guide RNA.

More news: US House passes $695.9 billion national defense bill

The use of CRISPR in storing sequences of DNA in bacteria was previously described by the researchers.

The mini film, really a GIF, is a five-frame animation of galloping horses.

Anti-Crispr proteins stop Crispr-Cas9 from working, by mimicking DNA, and effectively tricking Crispr-Cas9 into binding with it, and then never letting go. To the right is the image after multiple generations of bacterial growth, recovered by sequencing bacterial genomes.

About the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: NINDS ( is the nation's leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. "It turns out that. the phages have evolved ways to fight off the CRISPR systems, and that's these anti-CRISPR proteins".

Researchers used the CRISPR-Cas system to transfer the DNA to the bacteria.

Shipman says you could deposit these bacterial hard drives in the body or anywhere in the world, record something you might be interested in, collect the bacteria, and sequence the DNA to see what information has been picked up along the way.

To build the prototype molecular recorder, the Harvard team hacked the immune defences that protect bacteria from invading viruses. It is one of the most rapidly growing segments in molecular diagnostics industry, which helps in delivering customized health services or personalized medicine. The report provides current and forecasted market for each of the genetic conditions of Genetic Testing.