Scientists sure love reaching into the unknown. This time, they have embedded a GIF of a horse with E.coli to create a living library.
As Wired explains, E.coli is a “microbial workhorse” with an easy-to-edit genome. With it, scientists have been able to create insulin, antibiotics, cancer drugs, biofuels and synthetic rubber.
Now, they are storing information inside it:
Scientists have already used plain old DNA to encode and store all 587,287 words of War and Peace, a list of all the plant material archived in the Svalbard Seed Vault, and an OK Go music video.
But now, researchers have created for the first time a living library, embedded within E. coli.
Here are the deets:
In a paper published in Nature, Harvard researchers describe using a Crispr system to insert bits of DNA encoded with photos and a GIF of a galloping horse into live bacteria. When the scientists retrieved and reconstructed the images by sequencing the bacterial genomes, they got back the same images they put in with about 90 percent accuracy.
Yes. They reconstructed the same, moving image.
But scientists aren’t that fazed about what they did, but rather about what the genome editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 did:
In case you’ve been living in a bunker, Crispr-Cas9 is a revolutionary molecular tool that combines special proteins and RNA molecules to precisely cut and edit DNA.
It was discovered in bacteria, which use it as a sort of ancient immune system to fend off viral attackers. Cas9 is the protein that does all the cutting, i.e. gene editing’s heavy lifting. Lesser known are Cas1 and Cas2. They’re the ones that tell Cas9 where to do the cutting.
Here’s how it works:
Scientists are now selling it to customers using it for storage purposes:
Costs have to come down by a factor of about 10,000 before DNA becomes competitive with traditional storage methods. But the long-term benefits will be huge; properly stored in a cold, dry place, DNA can keep data intact for at least 100,000 years.
“The E. coli is just a proof of concept to show what cool things you can do with this Crispr system,”Jeff says Nivala, a co-author on the paper and geneticist at Harvard.
“Our real goal is to enable cells to gather information about themselves and to store it in their genome for us to look at later.”
That concept is called the “molecular ticker tape.”
Sheesh, what’s wrong with flash sticks?
That’s quite enough higher grade science for Thursday afternoon. If you do want/need/crave more, pop over here and check it out.