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Biotech Science Technology

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].

  • 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 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.
  • 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
  • Re:Is this legal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thepyro1 (994578) <thepyro1@gmail.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:50PM (#26231461) Homepage
    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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

  • 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!
  • by madsenj37 (612413) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:21PM (#26231581)
    Here [wired.com] is an interesting article about garage economies and why they may become popular again.
  • 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.

  • This is future (Score:2, Interesting)

    by camcorder (759720) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:37PM (#26231663)
    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 software vendors trying to achieve. But as in what current cracking scene doing, in future we'll see 'garage engineers' which would 'crack' those reproduce (read: copy) protections and release reproducible cDNAs.

    In past computers were very expensive so it was almost impossible for those hobbiests to work on software. After cost of this equipment diminished and people started to be able to afford them we started to see this kind of activity effectively. For biotech we need similar thing as well and it's very possible that we'll see it. Improving PCR equipments and be able to buy them with an affordable price and also cheapers chemicals and enzymes can easily make this kind of biohacks ubiquitous in future.
  • 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. :-)

  • Re:Is this legal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @06:35PM (#26231961)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Hmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mweather (1089505) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:55PM (#26232759)
    I think you mean create, not recreate. That article is from a Florida satire paper called South To The Future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:59PM (#26232955)
    While it's not (yet) possible to run a chip fab out of a garage, we can get very close. We can get so close that the difference is neither relevant nor apparent to the end user.

    FPGAs are fast and getting faster all the time. Using FPGAs, a great many microprocessors have been effectively designed in a bedrooms, basements, and garages.

    While this isn't building the physical chip in a garage, so what? A FPGA is just a commodity piece of equipment, the developers add all of the functionality, thus all of the value. It's very little different from any company that buys raw materials and turns them into finished goods steel for cars, wood for furniture.

    When an FPGA is built into a finished device, the end user may never know the difference.
  • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 26, 2008 @06:06AM (#26234079)

    A huge corporation buying legislation is anything but free market economics.

    In absolutely free market, even the market and the freedom are commodities.

    That fact is real and inevitable (although free market idealists consider it an intermittent and sporadic anomaly), it has nothing with human nature (and has everything with cybernetics) and it already provoked making of Marxism once.

    However, as much as Marxists' criticism of free market is founded in facts, their proposed solution of removing of power from money only made power more violent and more unchecked, because ... power (oppression, violation of others' will) is primary, money is only secondary.

    Money makes it possible and easy to conserve, store, save the power for later use. It facilitates and makes more economical the use (and brokerage) of power. Unlike rigid, static communist and feudal position-based distribution of power, money allows for almost effortless and instant changes in power landscapes.

    Now, what we need to understand is that high accumulation of money is endangering the democracy. Money is like oil, weapons or food. It can subdue you. It wants to subdue you. The essence of money is the debt: if you have the money, someone anonymous owes you to do something for you in exchange for it. A hoard of money wants to become larger (to be invested and bring back interest): it means the debt tends to expand and business is all about accumulating others' debts in their possession. Back to Monsato, we can see that it is exactly their course of action: to fetch more serfs, more indebted, more tied farmers, and through consolidated control over agricultural production, wide social control through food control.

    Unfortunately, I can't conclude this post with any firm recommendation for a solution to the problem.

    I guess we all should make some sort of own battle chest savings for the purpose of getting together and influencing the politics and legislation to act in our aggregated interest, to counter the similar actions of businesses, their own way. Because, supposedly, there is only so much money in circulation and in hoards, and we all generate more debt cancellation every day: we do something and then we get payed for it. We should place enough of it on the counter side of the balance of power, to make system do as originally intended: for the people, not for itself, not for someone else.

    Or, perhaps we should abolish the taxes completely and instead promote lobbying as voluntary tax: make it so that everyone votes with as much money as one pleases, with "vote" having attached a specific opinion that is being furthered. In present system, lobbying is used as "little force (donation money) steering the large force (tax-filled budget spendings)", it is just ... dorky!

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