CRISPR technology shows potential as a "molecular recorder" through DNA encoded movie

As bizarre as it may sound, a group of genius scientists at Harvard have successfully 'inserted' a GIF (yes, the ones you use regularly in your memes) into a freaking bacteria - if the reputed science journal Nature is to be believed that is.

Then, they used a CRISPR system to insert the encoded DNA into E.coli, a common type of bacteria often found in food, environments, or the intestines of people and animals. But Cas1 and Cas2 don't just do this randomly, as they are in charge of adding DNA in the order in which it arrives, thus making the cell's genome into a chronological record.

They delivered the GIF into the living bacteria in the form of five frames: images of a galloping horse and rider, taken by English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who produced the first stop-motion photographs in the 1870s.

The researchers first tested storing an image of a hand using DNA by converting colour and pixel information into sets of base pairs, those As, Ts, Cs, and Gs. "The bugs treated the strips of DNA like invading viruses and dutifully added them to their own genomes".

"We want to turn cells into historians", Shipman says in a press release. These dramas promise to follow the events that matter to cells-the molecular experiences that drive development, host-pathogen interactions, pathogenic processes, and much, much more.

The DNA cut - known as a double strand break - closely mimics the kinds of mutations that occur naturally, for instance after chronic sun exposure. The information, stored away as an array of sequences in the CRISPR locus can be recalled and used to reconstruct a timeline of events. What stops scientists from harnessing the power of those units, using the latest biological technology to treat DNA like a writable disk? Reading of DNA sequence has allowed to reproduce the video with 90% accuracy. This meant that when they re-compiled the data they had to restructure it using fragments from different places.

To study the mechanism behind one of these anti-CRISPR proteins, AcrIIA4, which was co-discovered by Corn's collaborator, Joseph Bondy-Demony, a biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, the team used a variety of methods, including cryo-electron microscopy and human cell culture experiments.

In particular, one anti-Crispr protein, called AcrIIA4, reduced the unwanted effects of Crispr-Cas9 during trials to repair mutated genes for sickle cell disease.

There's another way to create a moving image - through DNA in living cells. While the presence of the inhibitor prior to any CRISPR operation "almost completely abolishes overall gene editing", its "timed addition" after initiating gene editing can influence the amount of time that Cas9 is active in the nucleus, "thereby selectively limiting off-target editing". And if that doesn't knock you out, with similar techniques, scientists could hypothetically store all of the data ever generated by the human race in a single room. They teach us about DNA and produce ingredients for drugs and fuel molecules. Study researcher Seth Shipman commented to MIT Technology Review, "What we really want to make are cells that encode biological or environmental information about what's going on within them and around them".

To build the prototype molecular recorder, the Harvard team hacked the immune defences that protect bacteria from invading viruses. The report provides current and forecasted market for each of the genetic conditions of Genetic Testing.

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