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Scientists Used CRISPR to Put a GIF Inside Living DNA

14 Julio 2017
Scientists Used CRISPR to Put a GIF Inside Living DNA

When cellular machinery repairs the DNA break, it removes a small snip of DNA.

One of the earliest motion pictures ever recorded has notched up another impressive first, being encoded into the DNA of living bacteria cells in an ambitious experiment testing the limits of the biological hard drive.

In order to insert that information into the genomes of bacteria, the researchers from Harvard University transferred the images and the movie onto nucleotides (building blocks of DNA), producing a code that related to the individual pixels of each image. Traditional genome modification techniques involve shuttling DNA into cells without knowing where in the genome it will stick. CRISPR-Cas encoding of a digital movie into the genomes of a population of living bacteria. Even though the bugs had grown and divided over the week, they had retained the synthetic strands of DNA which Shipman used to reconstruct the images with 90% accuracy.

Muybridge's footage is on the left and the footage retrieved from a living cell is on the right.

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. As time passes, the bacteria's genome grows, more genetic code from viruses are added, and more heads are stacked on the pike.

The researchers then used the gene editing technology CRISPR to embed this sequence of information into the genome of the bacteria E. coli, adding a new frame of animation each day.

Shipman hopes to use this method in biological applications - for example, using bacteria to sense heavy metals in the environment, and keep a DNA record of those contaminants over time.

Dr Shin studied human cells in culture, delivering Crispr-Cas9, and then several hours late, the anti-Crispr protein.

The revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing technology holds huge potential to cure all manner of genetic diseases and disorders, efficiently deleting and replacing faulty genes at a fraction of the cost of other gene therapies.

To create this movie, the researchers translated five frames from the original racehorse movie into DNA.

'Also, the Cas9 protein that they target is not natural in human cells either, so it should be safe. The result is a so-called organic GIF, and is the first step in what researchers are referring to as a "molecular recorder", able to exist, observe and capture information within living cells. This system could be used to see the early life of a cell, process that scientists have yet to fully understand. Using cryo-electron microscopy, they found that anti-CRISPR essentially mimics DNA, tricking CRISPR-Cas9 into binding with it, and then never letting go. "We want to record information that we don't know", he told Spectrum. Such an approach would not merely open entirely new possibilities of data storage, but could also be engineered further into an effective memory device capable of recording, in a chronological fashion, the molecular experiences of cells as they develop or as they get exposed to stresses, such as infections and pathogens.