E. Coli Bacteria Found in Gut Used as Long-Term Memory Device by MIT Scientists

E. Coli Bacteria Found in Gut Used as Long-Term Memory Device by MIT Scientists
A novel study on the use of engineered E. coli bacteria as a “genomic tape recorder” for cellular memories, entitled “Genomically encoded analog memory with precise in vivo DNA writing in living cell populations” was published in Science by Fahim Farzadfard, part of Dr. Timothy K. Lu’s group from the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT. The engineer’s research team transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a storage device for long-term memory. The authors hypothesize that this stable, erasable, and easy-to-retrieve memory may be adequate for applications such as biosensors for environmental and biomedical applications. “You can store very long-term information,” said Timothy Lu, the associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering and senior author of the paper, in the press release. “You could imagine having this system in a bacterium that lives in your gut, or environmental bacteria. You could put this out for days or months, and then come back later and see what happened at a quantitative level.” added Dr. Lu. The researchers programmed the E. coli bacteria to store memory by expressing a recombinase enzyme, which can insert DNA, or a specific sequence of single-stranded DNA, into a specific site. After the DNA is produced, but only when the recombinase enzyme is activated by the presence of a predetermined molecule or stimuli, such as light, the enzymes inserts the DNA in the cell’s genome at the specific site. When an exposure is recorded, which is done through this process, the memory is stored for the lifespan of the bacterial population and is transferred between generations. “We can target it anywhere in the genome, which is why we’re viewing it as a tape recorder, b
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