Field of Science

Biohacking, Brilliant

It's been a long time since I posted, been busy doing science and other such things.

There has been some hoo-ha recently as to the relatively new fad of "Biohacking". The concept itself is quite interesting. Many different technologies have in the past benefited from experiments developed by amateurs. The thing that immediately springs to mind is the clockwork radio.

What I find incredibly interesting is how these amateurs manage to perform expensive techniques using household equipment. I recommend looking at this link:

Whilst the DNA extraction process is nothing new (In science class, I remember extracting DNA from a kiwi fruit) the way in which electrophoresis is performed is ingenious, using non-toxic products and stains.

However, looking on their website there are very few techniques available which allow for effective cloning. So amateur enthusiasts will have to shell out a lot of money to buy the appropriate equipment. There is the possibility of getting used items. But not all DIY enthusiasts will have this oppurtunity. I look forward to seeing how people will solve these problems.
The biggest problem facing these enthusiasts is PCR. This is the one technique that is essential for cloning genes, which is necessary if they are going to do the things they set out to do on their website. The lowest cost for these machines (outside of eBay) is around a thousand pounds.
one backyard solution to this would be to use a multiple waterbath (or heat block) system. You could use a kettle, and stick a variable resistor on the circuit, and then use a thermometer to optimise the temperatures. you would then spend several hours switching your samples between water baths (each step takes about 30 seconds, so don't even think about taking a break during your 5 hour home PCR). Automation can be achieved by using a lego mindstorms kit or something like that to automatically switch samples. An even better machine would have a hotplate on the top of the rack where you would place your DNA and primer mix, which removes the need to use mineral oil in your reactions. No doubt, there is probably someone working on this as I speak.

The people working on this project have high expectations, which I hope that they can achieve without electrocuting or poisoning themselves and their environment. The most achievable goal of this movement would be to test and increase the diversity of plasmids available on the parts registry. This is completely open source, and available to all scientists. Not only that, but creating cheaper science without losing quality is extremely desirable for pure science labs which will no doubt be the target of budget cuts over the next few years.

So actually, the best thing that is likely to come out of this project is not necessarily a tangible biological product, but efficient and cheap machinery for doing biological reactions. The unique challenges of amateur sciences will require the application of safer techniques, that are limited by the amount of disposable income of the user.
This can only be good for labs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS