Portable Lab Toolbox Generates Excitement Around Genetic Testing

Student group hopes to see mainstream DNA analysis with DIY testing kit.

You, too, could join the legions of biotechnology researchers studying the genetic makeup of the world with your very own Darwin Toolbox.

darwin-toolbox

A group of students at the University College London aim to create a portable genetic lab-in-a-box that anyone can use to analyze DNA. Computer science student Philipp Boeing, who is involved in the project, explained:

We want to make biotechnology accessible for everyone and decrease any interference that sits between society and biotechnology everywhere.

Boeing presented the kit — for now, a work in progress — at the Maker Faire in Rome last week. When finished, it will include a sized-down Polymerase Chain Reaction machine, a centrifuge, and a gel box. That is, a machine that makes copies of DNA through a heating and cooling process, a machine that rotates the DNA to force it apart, and an electrically charged gel that singles out the strands. He suggested the box might be useful for testing food at home.

The students have yet to decide whether the 13-by-11-inch box will be an open-source project or more prescriptive in its design, but they’re hurriedly readying it for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition at MIT in November.

Darwin Toolbox

Images via Darwin Toolbox.

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