The idea of doing biological experiments with current biotechnological methods and conducting research projects at home is quite new. There are already many names in use referring to the same concept: bioDIY, home biology, biotech DIY, garage biology.
We have a detailed case example which can be considered as the first registered, high profile biotech DIY activity starting the era of useful garage biology: Recently Hugh Rienhoff amplified his daughter’s DNA at home to help doctors figure out her genetic disorder. From the Nature cover article:
“So he bought a used PCR machine, a microcentrifuge, some small-volume pipettes and a brand new gel box. All told, the equipment cost him about $2,000. With these simple tools and some sequence-specific DNA primers of his own design, he could pick the relevant genes out of his daughter’s genome and amplify them enough for sequencing. Freezing the samples and packing the tiny tubes on ice, Rienhoff sent them off for sequencing at about $3.50 a pop. He prepared upwards of 200.”
Another suggested project was the How to isolate amniotic stem cells from the placenta, at home! but so far I haven’t heard of anybody who really did that at home and I only isolated the cells at the lab.
In my coming series I’d like to examine the following conditions of a mass biotech DIY movement: acquiring skills, affordable kits, tools, hardware, motivations, business opportunities and impact.
acquiring the how to skills:
– good education tools, protocols, videos, howto-s on the web
– short intensive academic or industrial lab courses available for every citizen
– self-education in community: forming Homebrew Biotech Clubs
available, affordable tools, hardware:
– cheap kits: based on the Rienhoff example, a very basic home lab can be set up out of 2-3000 dollars, which is the price of a good laptop.
says Mr. Rienhoff in an email: I bought all the equipment used from a local vendor who buys equipment at auction and from universities. All the gear is at least ten years old so it was very used and low throughput. But given that my project was incredibly focused I did not need the more sophisticated equipment.
– used equipment network: small budget biotech startups and academic labs are already busy buying second hand equipments and lab tools through informal networks.
– really useful projects at home not just for entertainment: health – diseases, again Rienhoff’s efforts are paradigmatic.
– outsourcing some research or routine tasks to private home labs