Scientists wrote down 100 bytes of data into the genome of E. coli, and then read them into the DNA of its descendants.
Storing information using DNA promises a real breakthrough in the creation of more capacious storage media: the theoretical limit of their capacity reaches a billion gigabytes per cubic meter. mm. Scientists are looking for efficient technologies for recording, storing and reading data from such molecules - as a rule, this requires re-encoding information in the form of DNA nucleotides and artificial DNA synthesis "in a test tube."
Less often, scientists try to enter information directly into a living cell, and so far the record was only 11 bytes of data. Only recently has the team of geneticist Seth Shipman at Harvard University succeeded in increasing this number by an order of magnitude. In experiments, which are described in an article published in the journal Science, the authors showed that the record is passed on to offspring along with the rest of the genotype. Basically, it can be a password or a short poem: scientists have managed to save and multiply about 100 bytes.
The researchers used the famous natural "bacterial immunity" system CRISPR / Cas, which is the basis of the latest genetic engineering methods. Acting in bacteria, it ensures the recognition of viral genomes that have entered the cell, their cutting and preservation of individual fragments in a special region of the bacterial chromosome (CRISPR). In the future, bacteria will be able to turn to this repository like a filing cabinet of dangerous DNA and respond more quickly to a virus invasion. This "memory" is passed on to her descendants.
This is how the "system for recording data into bacteria", described by Shipman and his co-authors, also works. Having encoded the message in DNA, the scientists “fed” the fragments to the colonies of E. coli bacteria one by one. The fact is that the CRISPR recording is sequential, and fragments of foreign DNA are stored in the order in which they met in the cell. And although not all bacteria in the colony reacted to the molecules added by the scientists, some turned them on one by one. The authors showed that by multiplying the bacteria and sequencing the genome of their offspring, the original message can be read without much difficulty.
It is unlikely that CRISPR / Cas will allow bacteria to store colossal amounts of data, but 100 bytes is clearly not the limit for such an approach. According to scientists, some other species, such as Sulfolobus tokodaii, will bring this value to almost 3 KB. And in the future, if not hard disks, then floppy disks and flash drives may well be replaced by bacteria.