July 12, 2017

"After the entire movie had been inserted into the genome, the authors boiled the cells to extract the DNA and then sequenced the regions where they thought the encoded movie frames would be."

"After running the extracted sequences through a computer program, the team found they were able to play back their movie with 90% accuracy.... 'If there was a fitness cost [to the bacteria], you would imagine the information would be lost over time, but it doesn’t seem to cost the cell anything to have it'.... Encoding a short movie into cellular DNA is a neat trick, but Shipman said the work only represents a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal — building tiny biological recorders that can capture and store what is going on in a cell or in its environment. For example, Shipman is interested in learning what causes developing brain cells, which all look the same, to mature into one type of neuron or another. 'There are certain places we can’t go that a cell can go... The brain is locked away inside the skull, and these changes happen rapidly and all at the same time.'"

From "Who needs film when you can store a movie in bacteria DNA?" (in The L.A. Times).

Well, speaking of movies, this would be a good beginning for a science fiction movie. I like the idea of having the gung-ho scientist saying, "There are certain places we can’t go that a cell can go," and the more cautious scientist musing that There are certain places where we are not meant to go. That's all I've got so far, that and an idea for a name for one of the scientists, the female (who should be the gung-ho one): Edna.

18 comments:

Rocketeer said...

eDNA

Rob said...

"Encoding a short movie into cellular DNA is a neat trick, but Shipman said the work only represents a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal"--which, if he's any kind of a visionary, will involve the ability to shit buttered popcorn.

john said...

Fantastic. But shouldn't they have embedded a Raquel Welch movie?

bagoh20 said...

Even with the enormous time span involved, this technology of life seems too fantastic and powerful to be a product of mere chance. Atheists have at least as tough an argument to make as believers.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Seems like the better science fiction angle is when these people work to decode their movie and get a few frames (in a very different codec or quality) of something...else. They then start looking for similar info in their own DNA and old DNA here, and keep finding more. A code emerges...

Fernandinande said...

An animated GIF is a great idea! I bet they spread over the internets like a bacterial meme!

Seriously, this stuff is pretty amazing.

Fernandinande said...

The next step is for the bacteria to evolve 4K color and 5.1 audio.

Karen said...

What a world, eh?

Rabel said...

Looks like the lower tier channels I get from Comcast.

Nonapod said...

A typical 90 minute HD movie (with compression) is somewhere around 3-4 gigabytes or 24-32 gigabits. The entire human genome is 3.2 million base pairs, or 3.2 megabases. If one base = 1 bit you'd need a genome with 24-32 gigabases, or 7500 to 10000 times larger than the human genome if my math's right.

FreddyB said...

Well, the plus side is that if we can get movies into bacteria the RIAA (the DRM people) will soon invent an antibiotic that cures every bacterial infection known to man.

Crimso said...

Nonapod,
The human genome is gigabase pairs, not mega. But your point is still largely valid. I'm betting that the fitness cost for having cells carry around a large amount of extra DNA will become evident as they scale this up. They were only adding a small fraction of extra DNA, and even then I would not be so sure of no fitness cost when they only propagated these things 48 generations (almost a week, according to their paper; this implies a doubling time of about 3 hrs, which is somewhat greater than normal for E. coli).

Crimso said...

I should point out that my doubling time comment assumes the E. coli are constantly in logarithmic growth. They would only do this if the culture is diluted out periodically, at least once per day depending upon exact cell numbers and so forth.

D said...

Edna: Goddamnit Martin, why wont you even consider it??!?
Martin: .....
Edna: Just think of the lives we can save! Think of your sister! Think of Fiona, wasting away, dying a little each day! Brain cancer, Marty, brain cancer!
Martin: No, Edna -
Edna (throws beaker): Its not no, it cant be no! We're scientists! Ever since we first met - dont you remember - the coffeeshop on Hanover Road - you said that we could unlock the secrets of the mind, we could... we could... learn to see how the stars look in each others eyes, and finally understand what makes us human! Why stop - why do nothing, we're so close!
Martin: There are limits to all things. I was young then -
Edna: -Well I'm older than that now!! And I know damn well enough, yes - we need to be careful with the mitochondrial hyperphasing and rectilimoparsing, but it's possible for us to shift the Key cells at Point 8.5!! You know it can be done!
Martin: That's not enough to mitigate the risks to -
Edna: Risk?!? All life is risk! I cant believe you are the same man who won the President Medal of Big Scientific Research Valour!! What valour is there in abandoning the research.
Martin: You need to think rationally -
Edna: (another beaker thrown) oh no dont you DARE try to tell me anything about rationality! Listen! I've talked to the Foundation Funding Chair and Senator Lord Goldstone agrees - we've promised results, and they think its time to put up. And its my decision. I'm asking you one last time - for Fionas sake - you can join me to make the Project work, or you can take Marley and go hide in your goddamn ivory tower cabin in Idaho!!
Marley (the dog) looks up (whimpers)

64 minutes more of that crap, with Anne Hathaway as Edna, I promise you: theres no doubt the rhhardin guy buys the DvD.....

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If you accept the hypothesis that the earth was seeded by an alien race with superior intelligence and technology, don't you suppose they would have left us a few movies embedded in the DNA of various animals?

Ann Althouse said...

@D

LOL. Excellent. Exactly what I was hoping for.

The Bear said...

Sounds like someone is trying to remake FANTASTIC VOYAGE. Might be interesting if done right.

tam said...

I remember a science fiction story from way back (in the 80's?) whose premise was that a pair of biologists encoded the Koran into their daughter's DNA. Since the Koran was inviolate, it was a mortal sin to spill her blood. The story was built on that premise, but for the life of me, I can't remember how it ended up.