These striking images of crystalline geometric shapes and splashes of color look as though they could be extreme close-ups of everyday objects or modern-day art pieces from an abstract expressionist. But they all actually show the DNA sequences of patients with autism.
In an unusual collaboration between research organization Autism Speaks and New York advertising agency BBDO NY, they aim to create a digital library database of 10,000 DNA samples of autistic patients. As the world’s largest catalogue of sequenced genomes, this information could be accessed at any time from Google Cloud by doctors around the world.
Funding for this project – termed the MSSNG Project – will come from sales of these beautiful pictures.
So how were these remarkable images captured? Grab your microscope capable of 1000x magnification with an attached polarized light system. Dissolve the DNA in a high-concentration water-based solution and place the DNA sample on a glass slide. Wait for the water in the DNA solution to completely evaporate and crystallize.
This simple process, as demonstrated by biochemist and photographer Linden Gledhill at an exclusive one-night-only gallery exhibition in New York, results in the DNA crystals interfering with light, and the trippy colors and shapes as seen in these images.
Two thousand unique DNA samples have already been crystallized and snapped for the MSSNG Project. Some of the DNA genome sequences will also be turned into music for an aural experience.
You could have the innermost characteristic of an anonymous person with autism displayed in high technicolor for all to see in your kitchen. Or while traveling to work, you could be listening to the very quality that differentiates one person from another.
"MSSNG has the potential to change the future for millions of people with autism," said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, said in a press release, "and this event is designed to heighten its awareness."
While a definite 10,000 DNA samples will be sequenced for the MSSNG Project, Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks Robert Ring doesn’t want to just stop there. “We aren't stopping at 10,000. MSSNG has been built to manage hundreds of thousands of genomes, and expect it to become the home for the entire field's sequencing data."
Extensive research could be more rigorously conducted with the creation of the MSSNG Project, unlocking the potential for greater understanding and exploration of autism.