Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tools of the Trade for Do-It-Yourself Biology

Today's Tuesday "Tools of the Trade" for citizen scientists looks at the recent DIYBio movement and the resources available for people interesting in participating.

For those of you who aren't already familiar with it, Do-It-Youself Biology is a growing part of citizen science where participants create their own biotechnology labs and perform biochemical experiments in their own homes.  Sometimes called "BioHackers", the field has received it's greatest notoriety for synthetic biology, where scientists manipulate an organism's genetic material (often by implanting genes from one organism into another) to create new features not previously found in nature.  But there are also many others types of DIYBilogy.  Some participants have used these techniques to find new treatments for disease, such as the famous Lorenzo's Oil example where devoted parents find a new treatment for their son's rare and deadly neurological disease.  More recently, DIYBio enthusiasts have discovered potential markers for heart disease that have led to larger government-funded studies to validate the experiments and expand the research.

If you are interested in the DIYBio movement in general there was a great article in Discover magazine "Dawn of the Biohackers, October 2011" that I highly recommend.  It doesn't provide much on the "How" of DIYBio but does a great job of exploring the culture, highlighting scientific advances in the field, and forecasting the field's future.  For citizen scientists like me it is great seeing the success this movement has had, and this article definitely conveys the excitement flowing from this field.

One thing I find fascinating about the DIYBio field is that it has taken an area of science that seems highly complicated and resource-dependent and makes it accessible to people on shoe-string budgets.  For amateur astronomy all one needs is a telescope and a night sky, birdwatchers just need a good set of binoculars, and ecologists just need a meadow or stream to take samples...alternatively biotechnology requires expensive machinery and lab space out of most people's reach.  But that's no longer the case as innovators have found ways to make those expensive machines affordable, local groups have sprung up to provide support (and even lab space) for interested participants, and educators have found cheap methods to perform complex analyses using household materials. 

So let's take a look at some of these resources:
  • GarageBio.org: Twice monthly podcast exploring the challenges of DIYBio, interviewing key players in the field and explaining various aspects of the field in layman's terms. As of this posting the organization is still quite new, but they have a high level of excitement and are tackling some important issues. So I encourage you to give them a listen.
  • DIYBio.org: This web site provides links to a variety of biological lab safety resources and links to many local DIYBio organizations citizen scientists can get involved in to learn more about the field.
  • GENspace.org: Web site of a DIYBio organization in the New York area.  The group has put a lot onto this web site, including how-tos for gene-based experiments, links to various problem-specific projects in the DIYBio community, and a variety of classes on synthetic biology and other topics.
  • BioCurious.org: DIYBio incubator in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Biocurious offers lab space, lab equipment, meeting space, classes, and a community of like-minded individuals for citizen scientists to join.  Contacting them is a must for any DIYBio enthusiast in the California area. 
  • CofactorBio: Look here for advanced biotechnology equipment made extremely affordable. Theirmain claim to fame is the Open PCR...this Polymerase Chain Reaction machine allows researchers to take a single sample of DNA and multiply it millions of times for testing. These normally cost thousands of dollars but here they sell make-it-yourself kits for under $600. The company also manufactures the Genelaser kit for isolating specific segments of DNA before amplifying it through PCR.  Samples can then be analyzed and decoded for your own analysis.  In other words, Cofactor sells everything you need to collect the DNA from a sample material, islate a specific part of the DNA you are interested in, and multiply it for analysis through gel electrophoresis or other methods.
  • OpenWetware.org: Wiki-based collaboration site for sharing DIYBio resources and experience amongst citizen science researchers. If you aren't sure how to perform a scientific technique, or are looking for chemical or biological materials for your research, this is one of the best places to look.
  • MethodBook.net: Collection of biological techniques and protocols similar to OpenWetware.  The big difference is many of these are designed for use in academic or industrial laboratories, but many are easily adaptable for DIYBio use. 
Hopefully these links will help you get started.  I plan in the future to post about some specific DIYBio projects  that you can get involved in.  But for now a brief explanation of the field and a listing of resources should feed your appetite and help you get started.  Remember, the field of synthetic biology may look difficult and expensive, but getting started really is easy. Fortunately there are many people just waiting to help.


    1. we are educational laboratory equipment manufacture, exporter and suppliers in India for schools, colleges and Teaching labs to all middle east countries.more information

    2. I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work, its hard to find good ones. I have added to my favorites. Thank You. flg elisa

    3. Thank you, thats very interesting information. I need to share with my friends.

    4. Posting it is very needed because every human being today want this information. Keep it up. Good luck and thanks for posting. Find Physics Lab Equipment Manufacturer|Suppliers


    5. شركة نقل عفش
      اهم شركات مكافحة حشرات بالخبر كذلك معرض اهم شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والخبر والاحساء والقطيف كذلك شركة رش حشرات بالدمام ومكافحة الحشرات بالخبر
      شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
      شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة الجوهرة من افضل شركات تنظيف الخزانات بجدة حيث ان تنظيف خزانات بجدة يحتاج الى مهارة فى كيفية غسيل وتنظيف الخزانات الكبيرة والصغيرة بجدة على ايدى متخصصين فى تنظيف الخزانات بجدة
      شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة
      شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
      شركة نقل عفش واثاث


    6. شركة نقل عفش بالرياض وجدة والدمام والخبر والجبيل اولقطيف والاحساء والرياض وجدة ومكة المدينة المنورة والخرج والطائف وخميس مشيط وبجدة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة نعرضها مجموعة الفا لنقل العفش بمكة والخرج والقصيم والطائف وتبوك وخميس مشيط ونجران وجيزان وبريدة والمدينة المنورة وينبع افضل شركات نقل الاثاث بالجبيل والطائف وخميس مشيط وبريدة وعنيزو وابها ونجران المدينة وينبع تبوك والقصيم الخرج حفر الباطن والظهران
      شركة نقل عفش بجدة
      شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
      شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض
      شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

    7. Just admiring your work and wondering how you managed this blog so well. It’s so remarkable that I can't afford to not go through this valuable information whenever I surf the internet! Eminem is an American rapper and one of the most successful artists in hip-hop. As of 2020, Eminem net worth is now estimated to be $230 million.

    8. This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!



    9. I like what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
      Keep up the very good works guys I’ve added you guys to our blogroll.

      Try to check my blog: 안마

    10. Students can get the TN 12th Model Question Paper with Solutions in PDF format from the links provided on this website. HSC (+2) Regular and Private Students can use these Sample Papers to prepare for their exams. Students must register to take the public exam. TN HSC Model Paper If you are one of the students who has registered as a regular or private student, it is recommended that you download these Tamil Nadu Board Plus two Sample Papers and prepare all subjects. Model papers are a valuable resource provided by the recognised educational board.