Forget the Cloud, Store Photos & Videos in Bacteria

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Exploring new horizons of CRISPR application, researchers at Harvard Medical School successfully stored a short video in the DNA of bacteria and later retrieved it successfully. It is the first time a video has been recorded in living cells. In 2016, a team at the Wyss Institute… (Featured image is for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mirahorian/1856445773)

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CRISPR – Global Patent Landscape

DowDuPont leads the CRISPR global patent landscape, while Broad Institute owns critical eukaryotic patents, finds an iRunway Research. Click here to read the report.

Exploring new horizons of CRISPR application, researchers at Harvard Medical School successfully stored a short video in the DNA of bacteria and later retrieved it successfully. It is the first time a video has been recorded in living cells. In 2016, a team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Medical School (HMS) led by a Wyss core faculty member George Church, built the first molecular recorder based on the CRISPR system. The recorder allows cells to acquire bits of chronologically provided, DNA-encoded information that generates memory in a bacterium’s genome. The information is stored as an array of sequences in the CRISPR locus and can be recalled and used to reconstruct a timeline of events.

The team used an E. Coli strain that contained a CRISPR DNA locus and a simpler version of the Cas protein system. Researchers used engineered version of Cas 1 and Cas 2 enzymes to suit their purpose and found that by introducing specific synthetic DNA sequences into these cells in a timed manner (different oligomers on different days, for example), the resulting sequences of the CRISPR loci did indeed accurately reflect the order in which the oligomers had been introduced.

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A PCT application WO2017142999 A2 filed by the team claims to encode not only video but also text, sound, image or series of images using a series of nucleotides.

  1. A method of recording information into a cell comprising

converting a format of information into a plurality of bit sequences with the plurality of bit sequences comprising in series a bit stream representative of the format of information, converting the plurality of bit sequences to a set of corresponding oligonucleotide protospacer sequences,

synthesizing the set of corresponding oligonucleotide protospacer sequences, introducing the set of corresponding oligonucleotide protospacer sequences into an engineered, non-naturally occurring cell including a nucleic acid sequence encoding a Casl protein and/or a Cas2 protein of a CRISPR adaptation system and a CRISPR array nucleic acid sequence including a leader sequence and at least one repeat sequence, wherein the CRISPR array nucleic acid sequence is inserted within genomic DNA of the cell or on a plasmid,

wherein the cell expresses the Cas 1 protein and/or the Cas 2 protein, and

wherein the Cas 1 protein and/or the Cas2 protein processes and inserts each member of the set of corresponding oligonucleotide protospacer sequences into the CRISPR array nucleic acid sequence adjacent a corresponding repeat sequence.

Early attempts to store data in DNA is almost two decades old. European patent EP0726530 B1 filed by NEC in 1996 claimed a method of storing data in DNA. However, the data was stored in vitro DNA.

“1. A method of writing into and reading from an associative memory of DNA
molecules comprising the steps of:
forming custom DNA molecules coded with information; placing said custom DNA molecules in a vessel; searching said custom DNA molecules for those molecules having a predetermined
subsequence and selecting said molecules having the predetermined
subsequence; and reading out the selected DNA molecules.”

Battelle Memorial Institute’s patent US7056724 filed in 2002 also claims to store data in bacterial DNA.

“1. A method of storing data in Deinococcus radians, comprising the steps of:

performing an evaluation of a genome of said Deinococcus radians relative to one or more criteria for use as a storage medium;

preparing a code based on the evaluation;

encoding at least one DNA sequence in accordance with the code to represent said data; and

incorporating said at least one encoded DNA sequence into Deinococcus radians.”

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In 2011, scientists at The Chinese University of Hong Kong established that encoding data in bacterial DNA can enable it to be stored for theoretically limitless lifespan. As each bacteria reproduce, the data could be replicated thousands of times. By mapping E. Coli’s DNA, the data can be easily identified and retrieved. The data can be split into chunks and distributed between different bacterial cell cultures, thereby minimizing data theft.

But now comes the most mindboggling part – storage capacity and density.

It is estimated that one gram of bacteria can store data of up to 900,000 GB (gigabytes), which is equivalent to 450 hard drives, each with 2 TB (terabytes) of storage capacity.

CRISPR – Global Patent Landscape

DowDuPont leads the CRISPR global patent landscape, while Broad Institute owns critical eukaryotic patents, finds an iRunway Research. Click here to read the report.

 

Major technology companies, like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are investigating the use of DNA to store vast quantities of digitized data. In 2015, Microsoft and University of Washington researchers collaborated to use DNA as a storage medium by announcing the “DNA Storage” project. In July 2016, the company announced that it had successfully stored 200 megabytes of data in DNA strands of the size of a pencil tip.

Though the storage of data in living bacteria seems to be potential and promising, it is yet to be accepted and used commercially. Academic institutes in U.S., Europe, and China have undertaken researches to advance and improve techniques by eliminating risks and incorporating precision. Challenges of data being lost due to genetic mutation, time to encode the data, simpler and cost-effective ways of encoding the data have to be addressed to make bacteria the next powerful hard drive. However, with the advent of CRISPR, researchers are optimistic about overcoming the challenges.

CRISPR – Global Patent Landscape

DowDuPont leads the CRISPR global patent landscape, while Broad Institute owns critical eukaryotic patents, finds an iRunway Research. Click here to read the report.

 

(Featured image is for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mirahorian/1856445773)

Aditi Das
Aditi Das

Aditi Das is a compulsive sci-fi dreamer who conjures up aliens from vehicles stuck in a traffic snarl. When she isn’t driving teams, inspiring them to shred technologies to pieces and unearth their DNA, she’s busy dishing up Bengali food and blogging.


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