This Crowdfunding Project Lets You Edit DNA From In Own Home

DIY CRISPR Genome Engineering Kits. The ODIN/Indiegogo

If you’ve been keeping up with science news, you’ve probably heard of CRISPR, the not-so-new gene editing technique on the block. It’s not as scary as it might sound: we actually stole it from bacteria, which use it as a defense mechanism against viruses. And the places it could take us are tantalizing. Imagine a day when scientists can just snip out disease-causing mutations and rid us of genetic diseases? If that sounds exciting to you, then you’ll be delighted to hear this fancy experiment could soon be coming to your home.

But before your imagination runs wild with images of turning yourself into some X-Men-style mutant with superpowers from your parents’ basement, this isn’t about changing your own DNA. Sorry. Instead, a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo, from the guy behind The ODIN, hopes to bring synthetic biology to the masses by selling kits that allow you to modify microbes. You don’t need to be a scientist, and you don’t need a swanky laboratory.

DIY CRISPR genome engineering kits/Indiegogo

If you’re feeling deflated because your dreams of being the Hulk have just been shattered, the science you can do is still pretty cool. For just $75 (£50), you can make glow in the dark bacteria, and we all know how much fun it is to draw artistic/rude pictures with microbes in petri dishes (see above). The idea is to teach budding scientists, or just those with a keen interest in biology, about both genetic engineering and bioluminescence. For $25 (£16.50) more, you can hack the DNA of bacteria and control them with blue light, a technique commonly used in neuroscience known as optogenetics.

DIY CRISPR genome engineering kits/Indiegogo

To jump on the CRISPR bandwagon, you’ll need to pull out a little more from your pocket, with the cheapest kit starting at $130 (£86), and it comes with everything you need: a pipette, growth media, bacteria, DNA, the editing enzymes, and so on. Of course, you’re not expected to know how to do it without some help, so step-by-step guides are included. It’s not dangerous, but of course we don’t recommend poking the bacteria and then putting your finger in your eye. Biology 101.

Brought to you by NASA synthetic biologist Josiah Zayner, who is currently trying to work out ways to terraform Mars, he hopes that this project will get more people contributing to science.

“Without you, science will remain the stagnant behemoth out of everyone’s reach,” Zayner wrote on his Indiegogo page. “With you, people will be able to contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues we face in health, medicine, food and fuel. If we work together we can create something beautiful.”

[H/T: PopSci]

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