A team of researchers have converted the bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have converted a natural bacterial immune system into a microscopic data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring.To build their microscopic recorder, Ravi Sheth and other members of the Wang lab modified a piece of DNA called a plasmid, giving it the ability to create more copies of itself in the bacterial cell in response to an external signal. A separate recording plasmid, which drives the recorder and marks time, expresses components of the CRISPR-Cas system.In the absence of an external signal, only the recording plasmid is active, and the cell adds copies of a spacer sequence to the CRISPR locus in its genome. When an external signal is detected by the cell, the other plasmid is also activated, leading to insertion of its sequences instead.According to the researchers, it could be helpful for to diseases diagnosis and environmental monitoring. Synthetic biologists have previously used CRISPR to store poems, books, and images in DNA, but this is the first time CRISPR has been used to record cellular activity and the timing of those events.
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