Human Practice


We demonstrate our CryptoGErM system by sending our message to other iGEM teams in the Netherlands.

Note: this is also described in the Collaborations article.

Sending our message in spores to iGEM Wageningen and Eindhoven:

The idea of CryptoGErM is to send information integrated in the sequence of DNA. Our system is using highly resistant spores in which the DNA is stored. Spores are then transmitted to the receiver who can get the DNA from them and therefore the stored information as well. We wanted to prove that this form of information transmission works. Therefore we decided to cooperate with two other iGEM teams from the Netherlands and send our CryptoGErM spores with a secret message to Wageningen and Eindhoven. Read the accompanying letter here. Follow this link to see how we constructed the message B. subtilis strain.

Figure 1. (A) Microscopy picture of the CryptoGErM message spores aka B. subtilis spores. (B) Tubes that were send via mail. (C) This map indicates how the CryptoGErM spores traveled through the Netherlands.

We went through all the 6 steps of our project. The message was encrypted with our program and converted to a DNA sequence. This sequence was synthesized by IDT. When this synthesized DNA sequence was obtained, we integrated the message sequence into the genome of Bacillus subtilis. Subsequently we sporulated B. subtilis and spores were obtained. These spores together with primers were sent to Wageningen and Eindhoven via mail under GMO conditions. Spores and primers were in the mail from the 6th September till the 9th. In this case we sent primers for PCR amplification of the message because we assumed the other teams did not include a whole genome sequencing in their finance plan. We sent this CryptoGErM protocol along with the message to the mentioned teams. The short version is, they germinate the spores on spectinomycin LB agar plates and from those colonies the message can be acquired via colony PCR. Primers for the PCR are provided (primer sequences can be found here). This PCR product is sent for sequencing. The received sequence can be copy pasted to our decoding program. Now they only need to know the digital key that we used to encrypt the message. We were kind enough to tell them the digital key beforehand.

Figure 2. (A) Members from iGEM team Eindhoven 2016 decrypting our message sent in spores. (B) Also the iGEM team Wageningen is happy to decrypt our message. Blue arrow indicates decrypted message.

It works! The iGEM team Eindhoven and Wageningen could read our message which was: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” The digital key to decrypt this message was: ”Autoclave after reading!” We hope the teams did this with our message after the decoding.

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