Is it possible that the kids across the street could someday soon be creating genetically engineered plants in their garage or greenhouse? (Now there’s a scary thought.)
This may be more feasible than you think.
For relatively modest amount of money, a person can set up a reasonably functional molecular biology lab, in part, by acquiring used lab equipment in places such as eBay. See, for example, this garage biology lab in Silicon Valley.
The above article is mainly about Dr. Rob Carlson, a pioneer in the field of “garage biotech” (see refs. 2 & 3 below). He has recently published a book called Biology Is Technology: The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life. According to one prominent reviewer: “Since Rob Carlson is THE authoritative tracker of progress in biotech, this book is the most complete – and exciting – chronicle of the technological revolution that promises to dominate this century.” –Stewart Brand, Author of Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.
Information regarding “biohackers” can, of course, be found online (e.g., see ref 4 below).
But even if you don’t have the money or knowledge to do such science yourself, there may actually be community biotechnology labs in your city (e.g., see ref. 5 below) that provide the training and equipment. A DIY Biotech hacker space has recently opened in NYC.
And getting such recombinant DNA (artificial genes) transferred into plants is relatively easy (compared to animals).
But for a sobering look at the current limitations of so-called “synthetic biology“, please see reference 6 below.
Here’s a new book on the subject: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life
Recent News: A Dream of Glowing Trees at Night
1. Ledford, Heidi (2010) “Life Hackers.” Nature Vol. 467, pp. 650-652. (PDF)
2. Carlson, Rob (2005) “Splice It Yourself: Who needs a geneticist? Build your own DNA lab.” Wired, Issue 13:05. Splice It Yourself
4. DIYbio.org Website “DIYbio.org is an organization dedicated to making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists and biological engineers who value openness and safety.“
5. GenSpace – New York City’s Community Lab “GenSpace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting education in molecular biology for both children and adults. We work inside and outside of traditional settings, providing a safe, supportive environment for training and mentoring in biotechnology.“
6. Kwok, Roberta (2010) “Five hard truths for synthetic biology.” Nature Vol. 463, pp. 288-290. (HTML) (PDF) “Can engineering approaches tame the complexity of living systems? Roberta Kwok explores five challenges for the field and how they might be resolved.“
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