Popular Science explains what it takes to encode a short movie using CRISPR gene-editing technology:
Using the gene editing technique CRISPR, they encoded a series of images and a GIF into the DNA of E. Coli. Scientists have actually been encoding images and basic pieces of information into bacteria for years. But encoding a movie represents a big storage upgrade.
DNA, made up of the molecular components that carry the genetic codes for life, is also an excellent medium for storing data. [Harvard neuroscientist Seth] Shipman and his team used a relatively new gene editing technique called the CRISPR-cas, employing two proteins to insert information into the DNA of the bacteria E. Coli. The information they inserted was in the form of nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA). The entire code, when sequenced and read, corresponds to the individual pixels of each image or each frame in a video sequence. Their work was published today in the journal Nature.
The study’s success is noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, it shows that scientists are getting a pretty good grasp of how the CRISPR-Cas system works and how to apply it. But it also shows that we can now encode, upload, and read data that follows a specific time—just as a movie camera is able to tell us not just what happened, but how long it happened for.
“If we are going to have these cells out in the environment collecting data, we need to be able to pull back out the timing that they get things just as you would with any recording device,” says Shipman.