Harvard University biotechnologists led by Seth Shipman have just managed to record a sequence of 5 images in the genome of a living E. coli bacterium, i.e. coliform bacteria. And not just any pictures, because they make up the famous movie called Sallie Gardner at a Gallop.
It was strictly scientific footage. It was established in 1878 and prepared fo Eadweard Muybridge only to finally settle the old dispute over whether a galloping horse has a moment when it does not touch the ground with any of its feet.
He constructed a system of 24 cameras, the shutters of which, thanks to a system of wires, were released by a running horse. This way, it was discovered that at some point the horse is not really touching the ground and appears to be levitating.
This fragment was saved in the genome of bacteria and then restored using a state-of-the-art gene editing method called CRISPR-Cas9. The team transformed every pixel of the old movie into a DNA code determined by a particular configuration of nucleotides, namely adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine.
Animation after saving in DNA and restoring. Photo Seth Shipman / Harvard University.
The scientists then used the CRISPR method to embed this sequence of information into the genome of E. coli. The works were suspended for a week and the processes taking place in the bacteria were observed. For seven days, they divided and multiplied, passing the saved frames of the film to the next generations. Ultimately, geneticists sequenced the DNA extracted from the bacteria and recreated the film. Amazingly, a whopping 90 percent of the recorded information remained intact.
This remarkable experiment shows that the genome can become an ideal carrier of valuable information that can be passed on for generations to come and become indestructible.
Scientists also want to use their method to record data such as changes in the expression of genes that affect the development of neurons and other types of cells. In this way, they could track disease development in real time and predict the occurrence of threats to human health.