Roland van Dierendonck
A digital image is translated into synthetic DNA, using a special method. The picture information stored as biochemical molecules allows image retouching using the CRISPR/Cas method.
The CRISPR/Cas system is a prokaryotic immune system, that provides adaptive (acquired) immunity against foreign genetic elements, such as bacteriophage genome injection. In the life sciences this system has been modified for efficient genome editing.
In two types of in vitro experiments we performed image manipulation at the level of molecules. In one we made experiments aiming on efficient on-target cleavage with full length guide RNAs (sgRNA), consisting of 20 nucleotides. In the off-target experiments we decreased the efficiency using sgRNAs with 15 and 12 nucleotides, making indel mutations visible.
The work was presented in the exhibition Nature Animée #2 in April 2017. The experiments were conducted at the Open Wetlab from the Waag Society and were partly financed by the Arts and Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria via pavillon_35 – Nature Animée #2.
We translated a small image (4_25x26_bull1_Dec.bmp – 25 x 26 pixel, 24 bit) into DNA using our methods.
Original template (zoomed)
The aim was to retouch the image, inserting eyes, using CRISPR/Cas9.
Desired output (zoomed)
The experiments worked, in the first type of experiments, on-target, using 20 nucleotides, we saw the eyes inserted, coming with minor mutations along with sequencing errors.
Actual output (zoomed)
In the second type of experiments, off-target, using 12 and 15 nucleotides, we saw all types of cuts, mutations and sequencing errors.
Preparing the Cas9 nuclease
SgRNAs, Cas9 nuclease
All DNA parts cleaned up
Visual sign of successful Cas9 cuts