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Biotech Science

DIY Biologists To Open Source Research 147

destinyland writes "Falling costs and garage tinkering are creating a grass roots movement of amateur biologists whose research is more transparent than that of academia. They are building lab equipment using common household items and even synthesizing new organisms, and their transparency also allows the social pressure which creates more ethical research. DIY fosters lab co-ops for large equipment and provokes important discussions. (Would it be ethical to release a homegrown symbiote that cures scurvy in hundreds of thousands of people?) This movement could someday lead to bottom-up remedies for disease, fuel-generating microbes, or even a social-networked disease-tracking epidemiology. 'In much the same way that homebrew computer science built the world we live in today, garage biology can affect the future we make for ourselves,' argues h+ magazine, which featured the article in their summer issue."
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DIY Biologists To Open Source Research

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  • Re:Holy CRAP (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @02:24PM (#28403297)

    How does one ensure the integrity of a bio filter system at a random University?

    Here's a hint: You don't. There aren't heavy regulations on this stuff until it gets to the point of mass productionf or public consumption. There are standard practices for safety and such, but these aren't government regulated and can very to a degree among institutions and among researchers.

    There are no regulations regarding home chemistry aside from the control of some classes of chemicals and some types of equipment. There are a hell of a lot of regulations regarding releasing medical products for mass consumption. Just putting a "cure" for anything out on the market without going through federal processes is a good way to incur heavy fines have your equipment siezed, probably even some jail time.

    That's where the check is, and that's where it needs to stay. Nothing needs to be done with DIY bio-engineered product X until it is ready for mass consumption. At that point, one could likely sell their idea to a major corp, or perhaps get donations to support it, and get it pushed through the propper FDA vetting and safety processes.

  • Re:DIY, meet DEA (Score:3, Informative)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Saturday June 20, 2009 @02:39PM (#28403397) Homepage Journal

    I wonder how all those science fair projects and high school chemistry labs sneek by under the nose of these government watchdogs?

    Sometimes they don't [].

  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @02:47PM (#28403459)

    I am a professional research scientist, one of the younger ones.

    I can tell you are one of the younger ones.

    For example, after amplifying a gene, no researcher will sequence it themselves: it's shipped of to a specialized lab that will do it, for a fee. That sequencing step requires equipment and expertise that's at a higher level than even the pros don't have.

    This is complete BS. You simply were never taught the protocols to do it the old fashioned way. I was sequencing my own amplified genes a couple decades ago with pretty standard lab equipment.

    Disclosure: I am a professional research scientist. Not one of the younger ones.

  • by greyhueofdoubt ( 1159527 ) on Saturday June 20, 2009 @04:04PM (#28403925) Homepage Journal

    I've done this very successfully using liver instead of spit. You get much more dna that way, since you're using chunks of cellular matter instead of just a few stray epithelial cells.

    A few words of advice- Use everclear instead of rum. Get it as cold as possible; I used a salt/ice bath. The colder the better. Instead of pouring the alcohol into the glass, decant it using a glass stirring rod or something similar ( [] ). Do this as slowly as possible. Pre-chill your stir rod to keep the alcohol cold. If you use cellular matter like liver or meat, grind it with a mortar and pestle. A spoon and a bowl will work in a pinch.

    It is a very neat experiment to do with kids around, since you can see the results and there's nothing too toxic involved.


  • Re:Holy CRAP (Score:3, Informative)

    by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @02:06AM (#28408231) Homepage

    There are standard practices for safety and such, but these aren't government regulated

    OSHA et al?

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman