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The Spread of Do-It-Yourself Biotech 206

zrbyte writes "Are you an electronics hobbyist or a garden shed tinkerer? If so, then move aside, because there's a new kid on the block: the DIY biotechnologist. The decreasing price of biotech instrumentation has made it possible for everyday folks (read: biotech geeks) with a few thousand dollars to spare to equip their garages and parents' basements with the necessary 'tools of the trade.' Some, like PCR machines, are available on eBay; other utensils are hacked together from everyday appliances and some creativity. For example: microscopes out of webcams and armpit E. coli incubators. Nature News has an article on the phenomenon, describing the weird and wonderful fruits of biotech geek ingenuity, like glow-in-the-dark yogurt. One could draw parallels with the early days of computer building/programming. It may be that we're looking at a biotech revolution, not just from the likes of Craig Venter, but from Joe-next-door hacking away at his E. coli strain. What are the Steve Wozniaks of biotech working on right now?"
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The Spread of Do-It-Yourself Biotech

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  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @11:45AM (#33908786) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to point out that the ambiguous "glow in the dark" quality mentioned here refers to the green fluorescent protein (GFP), a protein which exhibits bright green fluorescence when exposed to blue light. This isn't the good kind of glow in the dark where it produces its own light, it's the inferior "black light makes it glow" variety.

  • by MrBippers ( 1091791 ) on Friday October 15, 2010 @02:46PM (#33911138)
    Long story short, don't. It's not worth the risk. To "synthesize" your own you would need to obtain an isolated DNA sequence for insulin and transfect it into a cell line. Then culture the cell line and purify the insulin from cell products, most likely with some sort of chromatography. That said, this is not something you're going to easily accomplish at home. Producing proteins is not like making small molecule compounds. With small molecules you either have it or you don't. It isn't so cut and dry with proteins. Even a product of the same amino acid sequence can vary greatly in the post-translational modifications it undergoes. Prokaryotes don't glycosylate proteins and yeast hyperglycosylate is just one example. That's not to mention contamination from denatured protein and aggregates. Even if you did manage to create insulin, you would have to be crazy to think about injecting it into yourself. The purity is going to be dubious at best and you run the risk of developing an immune response to it. Worst case scenario, those antibodies are cross reactive to your body's endogenous insulin and you're now not only under-producing insulin, your body is attacking the little that you do make (or inject).

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!