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Amateurs Are Trying Genetic Engineering At Home 245

Posted by timothy
from the another-way-to-define-parenting dept.
the_kanzure points out this AP story on amateur genetic engineering, excerpting: "The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories." Reader resistant has a few ideas about how to use this sort of lab: "Personally, I'd like to whip up a reasonably long-lasting and durable paint made with dye based on squid genes that glows brightly enough to allow 'guide lines' to be daubed along hallway baseboards, powered by a very low trickle of electricity. Plus, a harmless glowing yogurt would make for a cool prank."
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Amateurs Are Trying Genetic Engineering At Home

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  • Hmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:12PM (#26231291)

    Someone should do something useful and recreate this [fleeb.com].

    • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BSAtHome (455370) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:02PM (#26231515)

      You might just ask around on the internet to find out who received the seeds? Maybe some survived and you can get a piece of the juice. But, then again, you could try for yourself and make potatoes, salad and corn containing THC. Let them regulate the entire food chain.

      • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:32PM (#26231637) Journal
        Parent's groups concerned by the threat of the narcofood menace, a product of rogue genetic engineers aligned with a radical pro-legalization agenda, hailed the establishment of the new FDA SafeSeed(tm) program yesterday. Monsanto spokesman Mike Smith said 'We believe that Monsanto's line of CertifiedSafe(tm) seed and seed compliance solutions offers responsible producers a proven means to align with FDA SafeSeed(tm) regulations at the industry's lowest certification cost.'"

        They'd be happy to try, I'm sure.
        • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Deagol (323173) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:28PM (#26232697) Homepage

          Don't laugh, my friend.

          The USDA is already trying to force a livestock registry and ID program on private individuals: http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/ [usda.gov]

          And I heard that they were contemplating a seed registration program, though I can't seem to track that down right now.

          With the invisible hand of the big agribusiness (Monsanto and the like), it may very well be illegal to propagate your own plants and animals in the future (or at least not without paying the fees to register your stock with The Man). From what I hear, Monsanto is actually buying up independent seed cleaners and shutting them down, so that farmers are forced to buy from the only large seed cleaner left: Monsanto with their illegal-to-save seeds. While the jury is still out on the safety of GMO foods, there is a thriving demand for non-GMO and hierloom varieties, and Monsanto is trying very hard to eliminate the suppliers of such.

          Scary world.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        ... Let them regulate the entire food chain.

        I think they're working on that.

    • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ortholattice (175065) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:41PM (#26232295)
      This is almost certainly a joke. Hint: He is supposedly the John Chapman Professor of Biochemistry at FSU. John Chapman was the real name of Johnny Appleseed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by philspear (1142299)

        I also found it suspicious that the source was "Supposedly the SFC but can't seem to find it." And a google search for the prof turns up empty aside from those stories. And accomplishing this would lead to a publication in a respected plant journal, not a shady internet buisness.

        Moreover, I seriously doubt that the 4 step plan could be accomplished by one guy as a side project in 14 years without either eating up all the funds for whatever it was he was supposed to be researching. Some of the steps sound

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mweather (1089505)
      I think you mean create, not recreate. That article is from a Florida satire paper called South To The Future.
  • Garage Credibility (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:12PM (#26231299)
    Just because a few computer companies started out as projects, that does not mean that everything someone starts in their garage is bound to be wildly successfull. I dont get why they must draw the parallels.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:46PM (#26231429) Journal
      Your point is valid, in that most garage startups fail. For that matter, most startups fail, and a nontrivial percentage of the activity of large enterprises also fails.

      However, it is still important to remember that some tiny garage startups do succeed, dramatically in certain cases. Obviously, being a garage startup isn't the golden road to riches; but garage startups, as a genre, are valuable. Particularly in our era of regulation, where concerns over liability, meth, terrorism, and whatever the fear of the moment happens to be, often lead to laws that assume that R&D only happens under the auspices of universities and corporations, and homes are just for consuming, this is important to keep in mind.

      That said, though, the economic argument is not the only, or even the most important, argument in favor of garage based tinkering. The onus is not on garage based tinkerers to prove that they are valuable. Tinkering is their right, unless it can be demonstrated to be an infringement on somebody else's rights.
      • I think from the Insurance Industries point of view this could be a Win-Win-Win series of events. If the user goes Frankenstein, then the Insurance Company is not Liable. If the result causes the client to live healthier, then the Insurance Company will get more money for their coverages. If the client dies from altering themselves, then the the client is not covered by the policy.

        I also think that from the Physician's point of view, those that prefer to help others, will have an added means of helping w

      • However, it is still important to remember that some tiny garage startups do succeed, dramatically in certain cases.

        Very true... look what these guys did! [imdb.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Arancaytar (966377)

      Hey now, some of the best zombie apocalypses started out as garage or backyard projects!

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Really, a lot of things got started in 'garages'. Its not just computer companies that did it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by madsenj37 (612413)
      Here [wired.com] is an interesting article about garage economies and why they may become popular again.
    • why must they draw obvious parallels between 'amateur genetic engineers' and 'amateur software developers' & 'amateur computer engineers'?

      the article also doesn't claim that every garage-based startup is going to be wildly successful. they're merely pointing out that we're now in an age where genetic engineering can be performed by amateurs in their garage, which means a lot more people are going to delve into the field of biotechnology.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      It's not so much that they succeed in business, what they do succeed at is debunking the myth that all science and innovation comes from the ivory towers of academia or the razorwire topped walls of the military. The new 'hot' sciences, robotics and biotech, have much lower entry points due to cheap desktop computers and equipment. SOMETHING will come of this. Whether Joe Sixpack likes it or not has yet to be determined...
  • Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:13PM (#26231303) Homepage Journal
    I mean, I love the idea behind it. But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?
    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:37PM (#26231393)

      I mean, I love the idea behind it. But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?

      Do you think that DIY genetic engineering will be more harmful than that which is conducted for profit by companies that care only for making money?

      • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:40PM (#26231683) Journal

        Do you think that DIY genetic engineering will be more harmful than that which is conducted for profit by companies that care only for making money?

        Not necessarily, but you are 100% assured that the safety controls involved will be vastly inferior.

        The only true genetically engineered mess to spread in the recent past, as far as I can recall, is GM vegetables. And that isn't at all what I mean by "safety controls".

      • I would believe that there is more regulation, however small, happening at companies who are doing it for profit that Joe Sixpack in his garage, despite what the conspiracy theorists may think.
    • Re:Is this legal? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geek (5680) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:39PM (#26231397) Homepage

      Why would there be? It's not like they're creating super warriors in their garages.

      All the hysteria over genetic engineering is ridiculous. Quit trying to regulate everything.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thepyro1 (994578)
        Only problem that I could foresee would be if pollen from a modified plant were to get out into the open it could screw up a lot of our food supply if people were to try and create super plants.
        • Re:Is this legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by geek (5680) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:33PM (#26231639) Homepage

          That "super plant" is still subject to natural selection and would have to be selected for. Regardless, genetic engineering is not easy and doing so in your garage will only get you so far. Bacteria etc is doable, any multi-cell organisms will be quite difficult.

          Doing what these people are doing in their garages is no different from what nature does itself every day. If pollen went astray, it would still need to be selected for in some way. Even the genetically engineered crops we use today are "forced" to grow under special circumstances, most wouldn't survive without a crapload of human intervention.

      • by Daimanta (1140543)

        "All the hysteria over nuclear power is ridiculous. Quit trying to regulate everything."

        Fixed that for you.

        You can't start looking at something after it goes horribly wrong, you start being careful and prevent that things go wrong.

      • by eli pabst (948845)
        Virtually all academic researchers are required to have approval of a recombinant DNA research advisory committee before they do any kind of work like this. There certainly is a real possibility of someone creating something dangerous, such as a recombinant pathogen which is the very reason why we have those oversight committees in the first place. For example, the article mentions creating tattoos using florescent squid genes, which is vague but I'm assuming the only way that would work would be to make
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

          Limiting access to any virus or bacteria that's in the environment is rather hard. The results of a fuckup could be rather fatal...

          • by eli pabst (948845)

            Limiting access to any virus or bacteria that's in the environment is rather hard.

            Depends on the pathogen. Things like smallpox, sars, or ebola are not going to be easy to come by, while something like influenza and the information to recreate Spanish flu would be. But that was kind of what I was getting at in my last point. Someone could easily start cloning things into common pathogens, which is not a good idea unless you are doing it in controlled conditions (like a BSL3 lab), but in practice there is no way you can effectively regulate that.

      • I bet they said something similar when people were exploring the world and spreading new species into ecosystems that couldn't handle them. Great forward thinking there.

        • I bet they said something similar when people were exploring the world

          "Request denied. If you sail to the edge of the world and fall off, then the resulting imbalance will tip all of us over to the other side, and then the poor turtle will be helpless on its back forever."

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        And what about super-virus ?
        I am against all-out regulations but in this particular field, as with nuclear fission amateur project, I am willing to heavily regulate until a better solution can be found.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard, MIT, and more than 50 biotech companies, you must have a recombinant DNA permit before you can manipulate genetic material. Here's the link if you want to apply: http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/services/regulatory-activities/rdna/overview.php [cambridgep...health.org]
      • by BSAtHome (455370)

        But the requirement of permit does not stop anybody from experimenting. You also need a drivers license before driving a car. Did that actually stop those who just drove away without?
        The whole point is that the knowledge is out of the box and, basically, anybody with a bit of patience and persistence can perform the tricks nowadays. Lets all create Frankenstein.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          You also need a drivers license before driving a car

          I was under the impression you only needed a driver's license to drive on the public highway. I have no idea what the parallel for genetic engineering would be, perhaps you could serve me with a better car analogy?

          • by mpeskett (1221084)
            Do what you like so long as your mutant super-plant doesn't run anyone over?
          • by tylerni7 (944579)
            You can't legally drive a car on public roads, but you can drive up and down your driveway if you want.
    • The general public seems to have this mental image of molecular biology scientists as this mad genius with bad hair and surrounded by giant humming arcane machines with arcs of electricity jumping around. The truth is, anyone with a mediocum of scientific and mathemathical knowledge (also some money helps) could do what we do in the lab. You could order kits for extracting DNA, cloning etc. online. You will also need to buy a microcentrifuge, a PCR thermocycler, a gel electrophoresis kit, UV light, micropip
    • by Znork (31774)

      It looks close to impossible to regulate away, if you read about DNA transfer [wikipedia.org] it doesn't exactly sound like there are heavily regulated substances involved. The most difficult part seems to be separating your DNA Modified Overlords from ye ole regular overlords.

      Can't say I'm sure it's a great idea to have people doing it all around, but considering the level of naturally occuring such modifications it's probably not that much more likely that someone will create something nasty by random chance.

      Still, I won

      • You mean like "weed"? There's a reason it was nicknamed as such. It'll grow about anywhere. Hemp plants are popping up anywhere they were grown for WW2.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Only if you get caught.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Humans have been doing genetic engineering as long as we've been civilized. Plants, animals, etc. Both were bred for certain traits. Before garages were even invented.

    • But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?

      There's not really much need, much of the research is prohibitively expensive. You don't really need to worry about your neighbor creating superflu intentionally unless he or she has a lot of disposable income or has inherited his or her own private molecular research facility.

  • by unassimilatible (225662) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:16PM (#26231319) Journal
    I have a plan and you all will soon bow down before me:

    1) Create perfect woman in petri dish
    2) First /.'er to lose virginity
    3) Patent troll
    4) ?
    5) Profit
  • by pomegranatesix (809489) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:16PM (#26231321)
    If I could get my hands on some panda DNA, I'd genetically engineer a mini-panda about the size of a guinea pig or hamster for the pet market.
    In one fell swoop, I will have saved a species from extinction AND become a billionaire!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Shikaku (1129753)

      Why not a panda with 6 asses?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        What do pandas eat?
        Bamboo.
        What does bamboo have a lot of?
        Fiber.
        There's your reason for why you don't want a panda with 6 asses. You don't want them running around your house, shitting 6 times as efficiently.
    • I'd like to breed these critters, the size of SUVs, dress them up in Santa suits, get them liquored up, and teach them to yell, "Ho, ho, fucking ho."

      Rampage in Christchurch, New Zealand follows.

      How come ThinkGeek aren't offering an "Amateur Genetic Engineering At Home kit?"

      Must be them "Homeland Security" bastards, again.

  • by vtcodger (957785) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:39PM (#26231399)
    I'm reminded of the breeders who purportedly tried to create a more sweet natured camel by incorporating lama genes in the camel genotype. The story is that they ended up with a vile tempered lama. Of course nothing like that could possibly cause my neighbor's attempt to produce vegetarian pit-bull to create a man-eating rabbit. Of course not.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm reminded of the breeders who purportedly tried to create a more sweet natured camel by incorporating lama genes in the camel genotype. The story is that they ended up with a vile tempered lama.

      Thank you for that short biography on Osama bin Laden.

  • The basis for his book The Stand will come out of someone's garage and not a military lab. Unfortunately, people like these probably won't have good documentation for the Hazmat team to use after the "incident". The good side is that the opportunities to get rid of surplus population has risen. There are an awful lot of people on this planet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geek (5680)

      Viruses aren't easy to engineer, most (like 99.999%) would never survive the process. The viruses we see today evolved over thousands and millions of years to survive our environment. If you think any old scientist can create something better than mother nature did in their garage then you need to take some science classes.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:43PM (#26231413) Homepage Journal
    "The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine", and the Doomsday virus. Now the remains of humanity crawls in caves waiting for scientist to develop a cure
  • by eggman9713 (714915) <{eggman97132007} {at} {mac.com}> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:44PM (#26231417)
    I have been doing genetic engineering for years and am quite an expert at it. Anyone can do it! Just stand on the streetcorner in a revealing getup and ask for money.
  • by Gocho (16619) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:45PM (#26231425)

    Bart: "How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?"
    Mrs. Krabappel: "I'm sorry, that would be playing God."
    Bart: "God-schmod, I want my monkey man."

  • The home genetic engineering project I would work on, if I were rich enough and smart enough, would be to take some MMORPG, such as WOW, and reify as many creatures from it as I could, and secretly release them into the wild, in enough numbers to establish breeding populations.

    • Why is this offtopic? If anybody works out developmental principles that even hint it's possible, we're going to have people in garages (if not in government and privately funded labs) trying to make real-life jackalopes, centaurs, orcs, tauren and FSM knows what else.

      You *know* there's people out there that would pay large sums of money to be the first person to own a pet jackalope, to be the first parent of real life furry child, or to be the first Slashdotter to consort with a "real" Orion slave girl.

  • Google started in a garage?

    According to Wikipedia, Google incorporated at a friend's garage, but that's really stretching a startup in a garage thing. It was Stanford Ph.D. work we're talking about here.

    Let's not cheapen real garage startups with that allusion.

      rd

  • Oh, come on now! We're geeks; we can do better than that! How about Spoo?
  • Lecture at the 24C3 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:57PM (#26231495)
    At the 24th Chaos Communication Congress there was a lecture about this topic: Programming DNA http://events.ccc.de/congress/2007/Fahrplan/events/2329.en.html [events.ccc.de] (links to torrents on the page).
  • Disclaimer: IAAMB (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imneverwrong (1303895) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:08PM (#26231547) Homepage
    Yes, I am a molecular biologist by training. This won't work. The reason genetic engineering is carried out in labs is because it requires expert knowledge of protocols, and expensive equipment. In TFA, one of the people interviewed is trying to insert a targeted florescent marker, and struggling. This is fairly trivial to do in the lab, but only with good understanding of basic principles, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear and consumables, and tested/documented protocols. You can't build a space shuttle in your backyard, neither can you successfully build a recombinant bacterium that meets spec in your garage. Just because cells are squishy does not make this equivalent to software development!
    • Re:Disclaimer: IAAMB (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rk (6314) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:54PM (#26231779) Journal

      And do you think it will always be that way? I recall a lot of professional computer people saying these sorts of things about computers 35 and 40 years ago. I also remember a musician friend of mine from 20 years ago hating CDs and preferring vinyl because it was cheaper for him and his band to get vinyl presses than CD presses. How's that math working now?

      Sure, they're not doing much today. Next year it probably won't be much different. Let's talk about 2038, though. Sure, a small garage lab still won't be able to make what a big lab can then, either. But 30 years ago, PCR didn't even exist and you couldn't do the work you do routinely today at a lab of any size. Do you really think that trend will stop now? It has been the nature of all technology to become cheaper and doable by a smaller groups as time marches on (computer systems being one of the most radical examples). Absent a very strong regulatory regime that curbs garage molecular biology and relegates it to a black market, I can only agree with you for now, but disagree in the long term. :-)

      • by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:05PM (#26232105)

        I recall a lot of professional computer people saying these sorts of things about computers 35 and 40 years ago

        Yeah, whereas these days, anyone can have a processor manufacturing plant in their garage!

        • by cibyr (898667)

          No, but anyone who's that interested CAN have one of these [xilinx.com] in their garage (or on their desk, more likely), and get their design fabbed by these guys [mosis.com] fairly cheaply.

          Sure, it's not quite as easy as hacking on open source, but hobbyist CPU design is definitely possible. Especially when you consider there ARE open source CPU designs [wikipedia.org] out there.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Thing 1 (178996)

          Yeah, whereas these days, anyone can have a processor manufacturing plant in their garage!

          Although I think you left off the sarcasm tag, I do agree with you:

          The people working on the RepRap [google.com] project are currently working on the second generation 3D printer. The first generation prints in silicone. The second generation will print that as well as a conducting material, which has a melting point lower than the silicone; that way the silicone can be formed with grooves and channels, then the conducting mater

    • Never underestimate human ingenuity. Not to mention advancements in off-the-shelf technology and manufacturing tools.

    • by Ruie (30480)

      Yes, I am a molecular biologist by training. This won't work. The reason genetic engineering is carried out in labs is because it requires expert knowledge of protocols, and expensive equipment. In TFA, one of the people interviewed is trying to insert a targeted florescent marker, and struggling. This is fairly trivial to do in the lab, but only with good understanding of basic principles, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear and consumables, and tested/documented protocols.

      A few counterpoints:

      • Ex
  • Terrorism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:10PM (#26231553) Homepage Journal

    It will soon be banned, much as anything else remotely scientific at home is in the process of becoming.

    Next, just having the knowledge will get you on a watched list.

    • How is the parent a troll? All it takes is for one politician or insufficiently otherwise occupied celebrity to figure out they can get attention by bringing this "disturbing trend" to light, and you've got the makings of a ban.

      Maybe it won't be labeled as terrorism, but it can be used to make people afraid, and that's bleeping golden for the kind of public figures that want attention.

  • by rritterson (588983) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:18PM (#26231567)
    Normally I have to preface my posts with "I am not a XXXX, but". However, in this case, I actually am a molecular biologist deeply involved in the synthetic biology community. Here are a few thoughts:

    First, the amount of ignorance regarding genetic engineering and it's facets (such as GMO food) is astounding. Anecdotally, I've heard that a significant fraction of British folks polled said they would prefer DNA-free food. (Think about it until you realize the ridiculousness). People typically imagine we are trying to create hybrid organisms or bizarre clone armies or something, when it reality, it's just mixing DNA that encodes for a series of proteins you would find useful in combination. To make glow in the dark yogurt that responds to melamine would be fairly simple if you had the right set of genes: a melamine sensor that, when bound to melamine, binds to a specific DNA sequence (a promoter) that drives expression of a fluorescent protein such as green fluorescent protein ("GFP", a widely used fluorescent marker derived from a jellyfish). It's not difficult, and it's not unsafe. The vast majority of DNA and proteins are degraded rapidly in your stomache, so they are safe to eat (toxins, parasites, and infectious agents excluded).

    Second, people underestimate how difficult it is to accomplish something genetically. Yes, the circuit logic above is fairly simple. Unlike electrical circuits, though, where you can control electron flow with wires there is no such spatial regulation of biological parts. It's very stochastic. One has to tune the concentrations such that the melamine sensor will strongly bind to DNA at the concentrations of melamine likely to be in food, without prematurely activating and freaking people out, while also avoiding being sued because it didn't activate when it should have and someone died. Once you get the sensor right, you have to then tune the promoter so that you get expression of GFP the same way-- no leaky expression causing permanently green yogurt, but enough expression when activated such that you can see it. I can build a simple circuit to drive GFP in the presence of melamine, but getting it commercially relevant is extremely difficult.

    Finally, and most importantly, the regulations of these types of technologies are, well, 2 steps from insane. There are no regulations on the transport of DNA encoding some severe toxin, to list one example. Take botulism toxin: the DNA encoding it is well known, and short enough that one could order it directly from a DNA synthesis company. From there you can use PCR to make as many copies of it as you need. Then, put it in your bacterium of choice, produce a whole bunch, and purify it out. That entire process could be done with someone with basic college level biology and about $5k. Anybody can find the botulism toxin DNA on, say, NBCI (run by the NIH) and get to work. And there are NO regulations on any of the steps required to produce it. A person with practical experience could do it much faster. I could produce enough to kill my entire university, starting from scratch, in about 2 weeks, give or take, maybe faster

    A second example is the definition of 'natural' when it comes to food. Any chemical produced in a flask, chemically, is considered artificial, even if it's molecularly identical to the natural flavor molecule. On the other hand, any synthetic flavor produced by bacteria in a vat is considered natural, as long as the sugar used to feed the bacteria is also natural. The food industry is spending billions trying to engineer bacteria to produce flavors in large quantities, because the average person will think 'all natural' means healthier or better for me.

    A third example involves regulation of the types of bacteria used to produce flavors: if I randomly mutagenize bacteria with UV light until I find one I like, that's considered safe, even though I probably have no idea what mutations I've actually made. On the other hand, if I go in and, with ultra-precision, make a single, target
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rritterson (588983)
      Sorry, the missing word at the end of my post was supposed to be a link to Synberc [synberc.org]. I munged the HTML, even though I previewed my post.
    • by Arterion (941661)

      What about prions?

      I've read that some of the GMO foods we eat now were created by the "bombard and mutate" method you're describing, and that we really have no idea exactly what changes have been made. A lot of the changes are categorized as "junk dna", but who knows if it really does anything.

      Let me put on my tinfoil hat before Monsanto hits me with a brain control ray. :)

    • Ryan:

      I've been considering doing a home GE experiment for some time now. Can I ask you a couple of questions about the difficulty level & maybe pick your brain on a couple of issues? 10 minutes tops.

      Drop me a line:

      GE (dot) 9 (dot) OkianWarrior (at) SpamGourmet (dot) com

    • First of all, I'm, all for genetic engineering, if it's done ethically and safely. But your post does highlight some of the legit concerns people have.

      A third example involves regulation of the types of bacteria used to produce flavors: if I randomly mutagenize bacteria with UV light until I find one I like, that's considered safe, even though I probably have no idea what mutations I've actually made. On the other hand, if I go in and, with ultra-precision, make a single, targeted mutation, that's considere

      • by Sabriel (134364)

        But doesn't that ignore the fact that bacteria have probably been exposed to UV light for millions of years (even if it's at a lower dose, and not all the time)

        There's plenty of natural bacteria that I wouldn't want anywhere remotely near me.

        whereas your precision editing may be completely untested?

        Um, the whole point of doing it precisely means you can test it. What's easier, testing the results of a single mutation you specifically put there yourself, or testing the results of an unknown number of mutations you induced by throwing a switch and hoping for the best?

  • Obligatory quote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vexler (127353) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:28PM (#26231609) Journal

    Pris: Must get lonely here J. F.

    Sebastian: Mmm... Not really. I make friends. They're toys. My friends are toys. I make them. It's a hobby. I'm a genetic designer. Do you know what that is?

    Pris: No.

    Sebastian: Yoo-hoo, home again.

    Toys: Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Good evening J. F.

  • I think that was a plot of B sci-fi movie?

  • This is future (Score:2, Interesting)

    by camcorder (759720)
    I'm not doing my research on my garage but at a university lab, however there's nothing prevent people doing similar research at their basements apart from cost of equipment of gene engineering. It is very similar to working with software, and I believe a good reverse engineer for software can be a good gene engineer as well.

    Currently GMO seed and micro organism producers try to put 'copy protection' for their products which prevent breeding new products out of theirs. This is very similar to what softwa
  • Not exactly genetic engineering, but a couple years ago I started growing mold. Seriously. It started out accidentally as some mold in a carafe of coffee left for a few days. After reading up on it, I then was able to get some molds to grow on some lemon peels and on lemon juice. I didn't learn a whole bunch, but it was actually a lot of fun checking each day to see what had sprouted. Once it "sprouts" the mold catches pretty quickly.

    What I find fascinating about garage science is that it allows complete la

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:19PM (#26232157) Homepage Journal

    I've created a few new strains of plants. I have a near-blue catnip that took four generations to produce reliably. I've got thai peppers smaller than your pinky fingernail that'll bite your ass off, took ten generations to get that down. Haven't tried pot, yet, but since I have my medical script and card for it I just might try making my own strain of cannabis. Will probably take twenty generations for that, though.

    Amateurs have been doing GE for a long time,e specially the stoners.

  • What precautions and regulations would these so called garage hackers take when disposing of such experiments? Sure one could say that the garage computer hackers of the 70s, took all the solder and buried it in the backyard or through it in the trash. But what is the potential of the environmental impact of a couple of circuit boards going in a landfill versus someone pouring down some modified bacteria? Also, don't forget in the 70s we were pitching TVs into the garbage.

    Before you go off the handle, go

  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @08:47PM (#26232541)
    Just like Bill Joy wrote in Wired ever so long ago. I have thar article printed out here somewhere, and I force it on everyone who will read it. I really think biotech will kill us all, or at least enough of us where the distinction is academic. I'm not worried about nuclear winter, or overcrowding, but the dang microbes. All it takes is one pissed-off bacterium or virus, and we get Stephen King's The Stand. No, I'm not a microbiologist, so I can't tell you, using the correct terminology, why we're all doomed, but I can't help but think that tinkering with life is bad. It might be an accident, but there are also quite a few well-heeled doomsday cults on the planet. Couple that with normal evil and quasi-evil government biowar research, and this freelance crap isn't going to help the situation. We're just too convinced that nothing bad can happen to little old us. The bacteria will win, I tell you.
    • by speedtux (1307149)

      Tinkering with life actually isn't intrinsically bad: genetic engineering can be done safely. You get problems only when the biological equivalent of script kiddies start tinkering with biology. That may be unavoidable, but it's unavoidable for sociological reasons, it's not a problem with the technology itself.

      As for Bill Joy, he is right that genetic engineering is dangerous, but he gets just about everything else wrong. I suppose the fact that people with no qualifications like Bill Joy speak as exper

  • In a university they'll tell you that there is no such thing as a mad scientist because one rogue scientist can't use the wealth of knowledge that a group has. It sounds reasonable, but will that hold up over time? When more and more knowledge gets fed onto the net, and technology goes down in cost(lab materials), won't the barrier to entry of mad scientist get broken down? So maybe the mad scientist isn't far away... especially when there are benefits to going against what some laws prevent.
  • One of Wired's Tools 2K3 [wired.com] list entries was for a DNA Explorer Kit that was sold by the Discovery Channel. It included the equipment and materials for several DNA sequencing experiments. Equipment included a centrifuge and a gel electrophoresis chamber. You can still find these kits [ebay.com] for sale on ebay.
  • Most genetic engineering done for research purposes really is harmless and people used to be way too careful.

    But people can really mess up. One of the most common bacteria in genetic engineering, E. coli, grows in the intestines of every human being. If you add the wrong genes to it, you have a potent pathogen. Viruses are even worse.

    Maybe the solution to the Fermi paradox ("where are they?") is that all civilizations kill themselves by homegrown genetic engineering.

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