Pushing the boundaries of biology, a group of researchers was able to succeed in an utterly ambitious experiment—storing a movie in the DNA of a living bacteria cell. While storing data in DNA is not a fresh concept, this is the very first time information was encoded in the DNA of a living cell. A five-frame clip of a galloping pony from Eadweard Muybridge’s immortalized Human and Animal Locomotion series of 1878 was used by scientists for this purpose. Incidentally, the galloping pony was the very first ever example of a moving image and has now become the very first movie ever to be encoded in the DNA of a living cell.
Led by George Church, a team from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering used the CRISPR gene-editing system to build the very first “molecular recorder.” The team converted each shaded pixel of the clip of the pony galloping into a DNA code. The researchers then embedded this sequence of information into the genome of the bacteria using gene-editing. The bacteria were then left in the lab to divide and multiply, thereby passing the movie on to successive generations.
The purpose, however, is not to store and see movies. The researchers want to use this mechanism to capture biological developments inwards the assets. The recorded data would be valuable to understand brain development, and observe and treat illnesses and diseases.