DIY DNA: The Rise of Biohacking

The tinkering that we now only associate with technology and machines, is emerging within the fields of genetics and biotechnology.

Though it may sound like the plot to a sci-fi film – teenage genius creates glow-in-the-dark pet monster as science project in garage – the tinkering that we now only associate with technology and machines, is emerging within the fields of genetics and biotechnology. A trend that is being made possible through a combination of falling prices for DNA sequencing, availability of basic building blocks like BioBricks, open source databases of genes, homemade technology that approximates professional laboratory equipment and a small but growing community of biohackers, DIYbio chief among them.

The situation has been likened to the amateur style engineering that resulted in companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple. The same kind of innovative thinking that could lead to next big breakthroughs in the medical and scientific industries among others. But computer viruses and human viruses are two very different things, and given the potential for mishaps, many within the science community have concerns with a movement that is virtually going unchecked. While it’s far too early to be predicting a coming pandemic from an experiment gone awry, legislation is under consideration, but questions over how and how much to regulate, so as not to stifle grassroots innovation still remain. Which leaves open the possibility that a basement lab might someday discover the cure for the common cold or at least keep trying.

[via The Economist]

[image via ::charmaine:: on Flickr]

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