Cafe Synthetique on 18 Sep 2017 commanded a full house with plenty of interesting discussion around Pierre Murat's research on DNA-based information storage and Jiahao Huang's work on long chain DNA synthesis.
Pierre Murat from the Department of Chemistry spoke about his research on encoding and decoding synthetic strands of DNA. He presented data to show how he turned (the encoded word) 'Black to 'White', Pierre has also successfully encoded images of Darwin ,Franklin and and Turin! By exploiting differential kinetics of hydrolytic deamination reactions of cytosine and its naturally occurring derivatives, he demonstrated how multiple layers of information can be stored in a single DNA template. He explained how controlled redox reactions allow for interconversion of these DNA-encoded layers of information, encoding a single strand with multiple 'messages'.
Discussion focussed in part, on the challenges of sequencing the complex encoded DNA, including the ultimate test: an outsider successfully decoding a message hidden in DNA from Murat's lab - a challenge many attendees might relish.
Jiahao Huang covered the interesting history of DNA synthesis since it's advent in the 1970's before talking about the exciting work going on at Nuclera Nucleics where heand his colleaguesare developing a next-generation DNA synthesis using engineered terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferases, or TdT. With tehability to synthesise strands tens of bases long already, he hopes to be able to accurately produce long chain DNA strands by the end of this decade, and ultimately whole genomes. Discussion covered, accuracy, large scale production and lead to the inevitable question of cost. With research moving at a rapid pace Jiahao anticipates that a long chain sample will eventually become less than the cost of sending it by FedEx!
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