3D Printed Bunny Created with DNA Instructions to Copy Itself

The ETH Zürich team of scientists embedded the rabbit with DNA instructing it to recreate itself.
Fabienne Lang

Storing information in everyday objects by using DNA is becoming more and more of a reality.

A team of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) along with the Erlich Lab, developed a 3D printed polyester rabbit embedded with DNA that has a blueprint to create additional bunnies.

Their findings were printed in the journal Nature Biotechnology.


What was used to encode the bunny with instructions?

Using four DNA bases — adenine, cytosine, thymine, and guanine — the bunny was encoded with 45 kilobyte instructions, and the DNA sequence was then synthesized. 

The DNA was placed in microscopic spheres of glass before being put into the plastic which turned into the 3D printed bunny. 

3D Printed Bunny Created with DNA Instructions to Copy Itself
The 3D printed bunny, Source: Julian Koch/ETH Zürich

In order to ensure their project was working the team sliced off a part of the bunny's ear, isolating the embedded DNA. Then they used a DNA sequencing machine to read the DNA bases, which then translated into the 3D printing machine instructions. 

Impressively, the machine was able to print a complete 3D plastic bunny, even containing the exact same DNA encasing glass spheres.

This was done four times just to make sure it worked properly.

Even more impressively, even after nine months of storage, the bunnies could be entirely recreated in this manner.

"We were extremely happy once we could read our first bunnies," said Robert Grass from ETH Zürich.

The team's next step is to turn DNA storage into something usable in everyday technology.

The reason this research is so interesting, and potentially extremely useful, is that DNA storage could shape future applications in manufacturing, where instructions could be stored locally in objects.

This type of application is most likely still years away, but this is an exciting step in the right direction.

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