DNA is a large molecule that contains our genetic code. It’s a complex molecule that contains all of the information necessary for the creation and maintenance of an organism. Every living thing has DNA in its cells. Also known as genetic inheritance, DNA is passed on to children when organisms reproduce.
The genetic code is the molecular foundation of inheritance, comprised of codons in DNA and RNA that specify the amino acid sequence of proteins and seem to be consistent in almost all known forms of life
Researchers suggest a quicker technique for recording data to DNA, which they believe would be useful in areas such as digital data storage and neuron recording.
In terms of data storage efficiency, our genetic code is millions of times more efficient than currently available alternatives, which are expensive and use enormous quantities of energy and space. Indeed, we were able to dispense with the hard drive and store all of the Earth’s digital data in hundreds of pounds of DNA.
Researchers believe that the use of DNA as a high-density data storage medium has the potential to lead to significant advances in biosensor and bio recording technologies and next-generation digital storage, on the other hand, they have been unable to overcome inefficiencies that would enable the technology to be scaled.
To record information to DNA in minutes rather than hours or days, researchers at Northwestern University suggest a novel technique. The researchers utilized a new enzyme technique to synthesize DNA that stores quickly changing environmental signals straight into DNA sequences.
“Recording Temporal Signals with Minute Resolution Using Enzymatic DNA Synthesis” was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on 30 Sept 2021. The paper’s chief author, Keith E.J. Tyo of Northwestern Engineering, said that his team was interested in utilizing DNA’s inherent capabilities to develop a new kind of data storage.
Tyo, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering, is a member of the Center for Synthetic Biology. His research focuses on microorganisms and their methods for detecting and reacting to environmental changes.
Tyo said “Nature can replicate DNA well, but we wanted to write it from scratch. Ex vivo (outside the body) entails a chemical synthesis. Because the enzyme that synthesizes DNA can be directly controlled, our approach is considerably cheaper. Our enzymes, on the other hand, are all expressed ahead of time and may constantly retain information.”
Avoiding the expression of a protein
As of today’s, techniques for storing intracellular molecular and digital data in DNA, new data is added by combining several processes. Researchers must activate and inhibit the expression of certain proteins to create a correct recording, which may take up to 10 hours to accomplish.
By utilizing a novel technique dubbed Time-sensitive Untemplated Recording Using Tdt for Local Environmental Signals, or TURTLES, the Tyo team believed they could synthesis entirely fresh DNA instead of duplicating a template, leading to a quicker and better resolution recording.
Changes in the environment affect the makeup of the DNA being synthesized, thus while the DNA polymerase continues to add bases, data is stored on a minute-by-minute scale into the genetic code. For example, to demonstrate the survivability of TURTLES within cells, researchers will utilize biosensors to record changes in DNA. This will allow researchers to use recorded DNA to learn about how neurons interact with one another.
Co-first author Namita Bhan, a postdoc in the Tyo lab, stated, “This is an intriguing proof of concept for techniques that may one day allow us examine the interactions between millions of cells concurrently. As far as I know, no one else has reported using a device that directly records enzyme modulation”.
From brain cells to contaminated water, there’s a lot to think about
Because of its higher potential for scalability and precision, TURTLES may serve as the foundation for tools that help advance the field of brain research. Even with today’s technology, researchers can only look at a small percentage of a brain’s neurons, according to co-first author and graduate student Alec Callisto from the Tyo lab. Scientists have been able to track the brain’s reactions to stimuli with a single-cell resolution by implanting recorders in all of the brain’s neurons.
The tens of billions of neurons in human brains will take decades to record with present technology, Callisto added. If you look at how current technology grows over time, it may be decades before we can even record a whole cockroach brain concurrently. This is something we’d want to get moving on quickly.
Data that you “write once and read never,” as the team refers to it, is especially well-suited for long-term archiving applications like preserving closed-circuit surveillance footage that must be available in case of an incident. Engineers have discovered technology that may replace hard discs and disc drives that store years of precious photographic memories with bits of DNA.
Apart from storage, the “ticker tape” feature may be utilized as a biosensor to detect environmental pollutants, such as the concentration of heavy metals in drinking water.
The lab aims to move beyond proof-of-concept in digital and cellular recordings, but the team utilizes it to capture vital signals for study, with more engineers interested in the idea.
For a strong intracellular recording, Tyo adds, “We’re still developing the genetic infrastructure and cell technology. This is an important step in the right direction.”
The National Institutes of Health funded this study via the R01MH103910 and UF1NS107697 grants, as well as through Northwestern University’s T32GM008449 NIH Training Grant. The Office of the Provost, the Office for Research, and Northwestern University Information Technology’s Quest high-performance computer center contributed to the study’s funding. Source Credits: Northwestern University/ GNU Free Documentation License