Throughout the human history, people have invented all sorts of #datastoragestrategies right from chiseled #inscriptionsincuneiform, to hard drives and Blu-ray discs. But they are all subject to one key drawback: they all degrade at some point. That’s why researchers are searching for more #durabledatastoragemediums, like diamonds and even DNA.

Towards this end, in a ground-breaking feat, scientists from Harvard University have encoded five sequential frames of a galloping horse from the #photography pioneer #EadweardMuybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion (which have since been animated) into a population of bacteria using the #CRISPR_Cas9_technology; this was followed by sequencing of the bacterial genome and #reconstructionoftheGIFimage (also referred to as a digital movie in the title).

In order to insert this GIF into the bacterial genome, researchers encoded each frame of this animated GIF onto the nucleotides, generating a #molecularcode associated with the individual #pixels of each frame. These GIF encoding #oligonucleotidesequences were then delivered frame-by-frame to the bacteria over a period of five days by using electrical current. Following this, the CRISPR technology was used to insert these oligonucleotides into the bacterial genome.

As all cells might not equally take up the oligonucleotides, the entire information is not necessarily contained within a single cell, so each bacterial cell might be host to only certain bits or pieces of the entire GIF. Therefore, the authors had to reconstruct the entire GIF by putting together the sequences coding for the various frames using customized code for unscrambling the genetic information. This method reconstructed the encoded images with 90% accuracy. Though, these GIF images have a very low-resolution (just 36 by 26 pixels), this study is a proof of concept that movies can be faithfully encoded within the DNA and retrieved as per requirement.

Scientists have been storing information within the DNA for quite some time: geneticists have already encoded a 52,000-word book into DNA. Though inefficient initially, the technology has improved over time. In March 2017, a team of researchers encoded six files, including a film and an #operatingsystemintotheDNA.

This ability to record sequential frames like a GIF image or a movie at a molecular level can lead to reinvention of the very notion of recording; using #molecularengineering cells could be induced to #recordmolecularevents such as #changesingeneexpressionovertime, in their own genomes. This information could then be retrieved by #genomesequencing.

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