Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Amateurs Are Trying Genetic Engineering At Home

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the another-way-to-define-parenting dept.

Biotech 245

the_kanzure points out this AP story on amateur genetic engineering, excerpting: "The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories." Reader resistant has a few ideas about how to use this sort of lab: "Personally, I'd like to whip up a reasonably long-lasting and durable paint made with dye based on squid genes that glows brightly enough to allow 'guide lines' to be daubed along hallway baseboards, powered by a very low trickle of electricity. Plus, a harmless glowing yogurt would make for a cool prank."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Hmm. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231291)

Someone should do something useful and recreate this [fleeb.com] .

Re:Hmm. (4, Interesting)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231515)

You might just ask around on the internet to find out who received the seeds? Maybe some survived and you can get a piece of the juice. But, then again, you could try for yourself and make potatoes, salad and corn containing THC. Let them regulate the entire food chain.

Re:Hmm. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231637)

Parent's groups concerned by the threat of the narcofood menace, a product of rogue genetic engineers aligned with a radical pro-legalization agenda, hailed the establishment of the new FDA SafeSeed(tm) program yesterday. Monsanto spokesman Mike Smith said 'We believe that Monsanto's line of CertifiedSafe(tm) seed and seed compliance solutions offers responsible producers a proven means to align with FDA SafeSeed(tm) regulations at the industry's lowest certification cost.'"

They'd be happy to try, I'm sure.

Garage Credibility (5, Interesting)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231299)

Just because a few computer companies started out as projects, that does not mean that everything someone starts in their garage is bound to be wildly successfull. I dont get why they must draw the parallels.

Re:Garage Credibility (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231429)

Your point is valid, in that most garage startups fail. For that matter, most startups fail, and a nontrivial percentage of the activity of large enterprises also fails.

However, it is still important to remember that some tiny garage startups do succeed, dramatically in certain cases. Obviously, being a garage startup isn't the golden road to riches; but garage startups, as a genre, are valuable. Particularly in our era of regulation, where concerns over liability, meth, terrorism, and whatever the fear of the moment happens to be, often lead to laws that assume that R&D only happens under the auspices of universities and corporations, and homes are just for consuming, this is important to keep in mind.

That said, though, the economic argument is not the only, or even the most important, argument in favor of garage based tinkering. The onus is not on garage based tinkerers to prove that they are valuable. Tinkering is their right, unless it can be demonstrated to be an infringement on somebody else's rights.

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231595)

I think from the Insurance Industries point of view this could be a Win-Win-Win series of events. If the user goes Frankenstein, then the Insurance Company is not Liable. If the result causes the client to live healthier, then the Insurance Company will get more money for their coverages. If the client dies from altering themselves, then the the client is not covered by the policy.

I also think that from the Physician's point of view, those that prefer to help others, will have an added means of helping without interference from those who only make a cure based on a for-profit model.

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231629)

However, it is still important to remember that some tiny garage startups do succeed, dramatically in certain cases.

Very true... look what these guys did! [imdb.com]

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231745)

What about these guys? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218817/ [imdb.com]

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

Oberstille (1161377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231907)

Just remember... it's not in the box, it's in the band.

Re:Garage Credibility (2, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231437)

Hey now, some of the best zombie apocalypses started out as garage or backyard projects!

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231575)

Really, a lot of things got started in 'garages'. Its not just computer companies that did it.

Re:Garage Credibility (2, Interesting)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231581)

Here [wired.com] is an interesting article about garage economies and why they may become popular again.

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231749)

why must they draw obvious parallels between 'amateur genetic engineers' and 'amateur software developers' & 'amateur computer engineers'?

the article also doesn't claim that every garage-based startup is going to be wildly successful. they're merely pointing out that we're now in an age where genetic engineering can be performed by amateurs in their garage, which means a lot more people are going to delve into the field of biotechnology.

Re:Garage Credibility (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231795)

It's not so much that they succeed in business, what they do succeed at is debunking the myth that all science and innovation comes from the ivory towers of academia or the razorwire topped walls of the military. The new 'hot' sciences, robotics and biotech, have much lower entry points due to cheap desktop computers and equipment. SOMETHING will come of this. Whether Joe Sixpack likes it or not has yet to be determined...

Is this legal? (5, Insightful)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231303)

I mean, I love the idea behind it. But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?

Re:Is this legal? (4, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231393)

I mean, I love the idea behind it. But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?

Do you think that DIY genetic engineering will be more harmful than that which is conducted for profit by companies that care only for making money?

Re:Is this legal? (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231683)

Do you think that DIY genetic engineering will be more harmful than that which is conducted for profit by companies that care only for making money?

Not necessarily, but you are 100% assured that the safety controls involved will be vastly inferior.

The only true genetically engineered mess to spread in the recent past, as far as I can recall, is GM vegetables. And that isn't at all what I mean by "safety controls".

Safety controls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231851)

How about the 'safety control' of throwing a project in the garbage?

Think of it this way: If Giant InterCorp tries to make a vaccine and find a way to wipe out everyone with genetic heritage X, they won't throw it away--they'll just apply for "black budget" funding where their researchers will quietly send reports to a small office in Langley, Va.

There's at least a 50-50 chance that the "garage band" researcher will look at his creation and throw the whole thing in the incinerator.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231691)

You could understand what he is thinking if you got infected with a bacteria which is resistant to known antibiotics that is produced by DIY genetic engineering.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231791)

I would believe that there is more regulation, however small, happening at companies who are doing it for profit that Joe Sixpack in his garage, despite what the conspiracy theorists may think.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26232193)

Why are you assuming that all companies only care about money and that all amateurs are ethical and not in it for the money?

Re:Is this legal? (3, Insightful)

geek (5680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231397)

Why would there be? It's not like they're creating super warriors in their garages.

All the hysteria over genetic engineering is ridiculous. Quit trying to regulate everything.

Re:Is this legal? (2, Interesting)

thepyro1 (994578) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231461)

Only problem that I could foresee would be if pollen from a modified plant were to get out into the open it could screw up a lot of our food supply if people were to try and create super plants.

Re:Is this legal? (4, Insightful)

geek (5680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231639)

That "super plant" is still subject to natural selection and would have to be selected for. Regardless, genetic engineering is not easy and doing so in your garage will only get you so far. Bacteria etc is doable, any multi-cell organisms will be quite difficult.

Doing what these people are doing in their garages is no different from what nature does itself every day. If pollen went astray, it would still need to be selected for in some way. Even the genetically engineered crops we use today are "forced" to grow under special circumstances, most wouldn't survive without a crapload of human intervention.

Re:Is this legal? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231507)

Damn straight! Today the mad scientist can't genetically engineer a race of mutant supermen in their garage, tomorrow it's the mad grad student! Where will it end?

Re:Is this legal? (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231603)

"All the hysteria over nuclear power is ridiculous. Quit trying to regulate everything."

Fixed that for you.

You can't start looking at something after it goes horribly wrong, you start being careful and prevent that things go wrong.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231761)

> All the hysteria over genetic engineering is ridiculous. Quit trying to regulate everything.
Genetic Engineering is the only field where your "mistake" can make more little "mistakes"

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26232109)

It certainly isn't. Particularly strange comment to make on /. of all places. The Morris Worm [wikipedia.org] made lots of little baby worm mistakes. Lots and lots.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

eli pabst (948845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231827)

Virtually all academic researchers are required to have approval of a recombinant DNA research advisory committee before they do any kind of work like this. There certainly is a real possibility of someone creating something dangerous, such as a recombinant pathogen which is the very reason why we have those oversight committees in the first place. For example, the article mentions creating tattoos using florescent squid genes, which is vague but I'm assuming the only way that would work would be to make a recombinant virus expressing a GFP-like gene. So you really don't that it might be a bad idea to have people injecting infectious agents into themselves that they brewed up in their garage?

I'm all for regulating this, but realistically there is no way to prevent people from making recombinant human pathogens in their garage while still allowing legitimate educational activities like making GFP-expressing e.coli. So frankly, regulation is pointless beyond what already is in place, such as limiting access to pathogens.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231431)

I surely hope there's no regulation on it but at the same time they've been trying to do away with the home chemistry set for quite a while now. Afterall, the only people who would ever want to use a chemistry set at home are terr'rists. Despite the fact that most of our truly innovative ideas came from people who do not work for a lab professionally.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231477)

You forgot those evil drug dealers. Just check out Texas's law on possessing lab glass:
http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/criminal_law_enforcement/narcotics/narcprecursor.htm [state.tx.us]

Re:Is this legal? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231855)

We already know drug dealers are terrorists.

Re:Is this legal? (3, Informative)

conrad_halling (1335699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231471)

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard, MIT, and more than 50 biotech companies, you must have a recombinant DNA permit before you can manipulate genetic material. Here's the link if you want to apply: http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/services/regulatory-activities/rdna/overview.php [cambridgep...health.org]

Re:Is this legal? (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231549)

But the requirement of permit does not stop anybody from experimenting. You also need a drivers license before driving a car. Did that actually stop those who just drove away without?
The whole point is that the knowledge is out of the box and, basically, anybody with a bit of patience and persistence can perform the tricks nowadays. Lets all create Frankenstein.

Re:Is this legal? (1, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231569)

You also need a drivers license before driving a car

I was under the impression you only needed a driver's license to drive on the public highway. I have no idea what the parallel for genetic engineering would be, perhaps you could serve me with a better car analogy?

Re:Is this legal? (1)

mpeskett (1221084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231591)

Do what you like so long as your mutant super-plant doesn't run anyone over?

Re:Is this legal? (0, Offtopic)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231973)

The Wright brothers didn't have pilot's licenses...

Well, it's easy to do (1)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231493)

The general public seems to have this mental image of molecular biology scientists as this mad genius with bad hair and surrounded by giant humming arcane machines with arcs of electricity jumping around. The truth is, anyone with a mediocum of scientific and mathemathical knowledge (also some money helps) could do what we do in the lab. You could order kits for extracting DNA, cloning etc. online. You will also need to buy a microcentrifuge, a PCR thermocycler, a gel electrophoresis kit, UV light, micropipettors and a few other consummables. Overall, around 10-25 thousand dollars in start up money. You don't need to sequence the DNA yourself as there are private companies who can do it for you for a fee. However, before you get all tingly with the thought of making your own girlfriend in a petri dish, the state of the art labs can barely manage to clone sheep and dogs. Hell, in my lab, even cloning genes into E.coli only results in 10-50 successful insertions out of millions of cells. SO, it's not out of reach if you have some money lying around but don't start dreaming of playing god just yet.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231513)

It looks close to impossible to regulate away, if you read about DNA transfer [wikipedia.org] it doesn't exactly sound like there are heavily regulated substances involved. The most difficult part seems to be separating your DNA Modified Overlords from ye ole regular overlords.

Can't say I'm sure it's a great idea to have people doing it all around, but considering the level of naturally occuring such modifications it's probably not that much more likely that someone will create something nasty by random chance.

Still, I wonder how long it'll be before someone splices THC production into dandelions or other highly prolific weed.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231991)

You mean like "weed"? There's a reason it was nicknamed as such. It'll grow about anywhere. Hemp plants are popping up anywhere they were grown for WW2.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231565)

Only if you get caught.

Re:Is this lethal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231649)

Subject: Is this lethal?

There, fixed that for you. ;)

Re:Is this legal? (2, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231961)

Humans have been doing genetic engineering as long as we've been civilized. Plants, animals, etc. Both were bred for certain traits. Before garages were even invented.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231975)

I mean, I love the idea behind it. But isn't there regulation on doing this type of research?

when i was young, "genetic engineering at home" was called sex and if she was 18 or more, it was legal.

Laugh now, but (4, Funny)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231319)

I have a plan and you all will soon bow down before me:

1) Create perfect woman in petri dish
2) First /.'er to lose virginity
3) Patent troll
4) ?
5) Profit

Re:Laugh now, but (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231355)

1) Create perfect woman in petri dish
2) First /.'er to lose virginity ...
5) Profit

Sounds you just discovered the worlds second oldest profession.

Re:Laugh now, but (4, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231579)

You can't patent trolls, there's too much prior art.

Also, I'm fairly sure 'trying genetic engineering at home' is a euphemism for something...

Re:Laugh now, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231881)

I think that, considering your suggestion, a proper tag would be:

whatcouldpossiblygrowwrong

Re:Laugh now, but (1)

Calydor (739835) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231921)

In order to be a real patent troll, you need to sue anyone infringing on your patent.

And let's get real here, who is going to infringe on the patent of being a slashdotter AND getting laid?

Minature pandas (5, Funny)

pomegranatesix (809489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231321)

If I could get my hands on some panda DNA, I'd genetically engineer a mini-panda about the size of a guinea pig or hamster for the pet market.
In one fell swoop, I will have saved a species from extinction AND become a billionaire!

Re:Minature pandas (1, Funny)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231337)

Why not a panda with 6 asses?

Re:Minature pandas (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231347)

Why bother with the panda at all? [thehumorarchives.com]

Re:Minature pandas (2, Funny)

pomegranatesix (809489) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231861)

What do pandas eat?
Bamboo.
What does bamboo have a lot of?
Fiber.
There's your reason for why you don't want a panda with 6 asses. You don't want them running around your house, shitting 6 times as efficiently.

Re:Minature pandas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26232009)

Because even furries like me wouldn't pay for that. Now, genetically modifying us to be, well, anthropomorphic hybrids... well, my friend with a 1st in Molecular Biology has already had people ask him for that years ago. The answer, for the foreseeable future, is "no".

Re:Minature pandas (1)

Bramlet Abercrombie (1435537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232047)

I'm going to make mini T-rex's...They will be the size of a chicken and all the kids will want one.

Mmmm.. nothing like a cup of The Stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231343)

You know you want it.

What could possibly go wrong? (2, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231399)

I'm reminded of the breeders who purportedly tried to create a more sweet natured camel by incorporating lama genes in the camel genotype. The story is that they ended up with a vile tempered lama. Of course nothing like that could possibly cause my neighbor's attempt to produce vegetarian pit-bull to create a man-eating rabbit. Of course not.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231427)

I'm reminded of the breeders who purportedly tried to create a more sweet natured camel by incorporating lama genes in the camel genotype. The story is that they ended up with a vile tempered lama.

Thank you for that short biography on Osama bin Laden.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231489)

to create a man-eating rabbit

Death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!

Looks like Stephen King got it wrong... (2, Funny)

letchhausen (95030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231407)

The basis for his book The Stand will come out of someone's garage and not a military lab. Unfortunately, people like these probably won't have good documentation for the Hazmat team to use after the "incident". The good side is that the opportunities to get rid of surplus population has risen. There are an awful lot of people on this planet.

Re:Looks like Stephen King got it wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231511)

there are a *lot* more ants however.

Friken ants.

Re:Looks like Stephen King got it wrong... (2, Funny)

jftitan (736933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231707)

I had an ant farm, and those fuckers didn't grow shit! -Mitch

Re:Looks like Stephen King got it wrong... (2, Informative)

geek (5680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231665)

Viruses aren't easy to engineer, most (like 99.999%) would never survive the process. The viruses we see today evolved over thousands and millions of years to survive our environment. If you think any old scientist can create something better than mother nature did in their garage then you need to take some science classes.

Garages changed our life (2, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231413)

"The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine", and the Doomsday virus. Now the remains of humanity crawls in caves waiting for scientist to develop a cure

Been doing it for years (3, Funny)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231417)

I have been doing genetic engineering for years and am quite an expert at it. Anyone can do it! Just stand on the streetcorner in a revealing getup and ask for money.

Re:Been doing it for years (3, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231799)

You are aware that at least one of you has to be female, right?

What does Bart have to say about this? (3, Funny)

Gocho (16619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231425)

Bart: "How would I go about creating a half-man, half-monkey-type creature?"
Mrs. Krabappel: "I'm sorry, that would be playing God."
Bart: "God-schmod, I want my monkey man."

Re:What does Bart have to say about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231443)

Was that the Steve Ballmer episode?

Re:What does Bart have to say about this? (1)

Gocho (16619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231479)

I believe it's from the episode when Milhouse falls in love with Samantha

My clandestine genetic engineering dream (1, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231435)

The home genetic engineering project I would work on, if I were rich enough and smart enough, would be to take some MMORPG, such as WOW, and reify as many creatures from it as I could, and secretly release them into the wild, in enough numbers to establish breeding populations.

Re:My clandestine genetic engineering dream (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232113)

Why is this offtopic? If anybody works out developmental principles that even hint it's possible, we're going to have people in garages (if not in government and privately funded labs) trying to make real-life jackalopes, centaurs, orcs, tauren and FSM knows what else.

You *know* there's people out there that would pay large sums of money to be the first person to own a pet jackalope, to be the first parent of real life furry child, or to be the first Slashdotter to consort with a "real" Orion slave girl. And yes, *somebody* will step out of the shadows to fill that demand as soon as it's possible to do so. That seems entirely on-topic to me.

Google started in a garage? (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231439)

Google started in a garage?

According to Wikipedia, Google incorporated at a friend's garage, but that's really stretching a startup in a garage thing. It was Stanford Ph.D. work we're talking about here.

Let's not cheapen real garage startups with that allusion.

  rd

harmless, glowing yogurht? (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231457)

Oh, come on now! We're geeks; we can do better than that! How about Spoo?

Lecture at the 24C3 (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231495)

At the 24th Chaos Communication Congress there was a lecture about this topic: Programming DNA http://events.ccc.de/congress/2007/Fahrplan/events/2329.en.html [events.ccc.de] (links to torrents on the page).

Disclaimer: IAAMB (5, Interesting)

imneverwrong (1303895) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231547)

Yes, I am a molecular biologist by training. This won't work. The reason genetic engineering is carried out in labs is because it requires expert knowledge of protocols, and expensive equipment. In TFA, one of the people interviewed is trying to insert a targeted florescent marker, and struggling. This is fairly trivial to do in the lab, but only with good understanding of basic principles, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear and consumables, and tested/documented protocols. You can't build a space shuttle in your backyard, neither can you successfully build a recombinant bacterium that meets spec in your garage. Just because cells are squishy does not make this equivalent to software development!

Re:Disclaimer: IAAMB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231641)

Well, you're wrong ;) There's nothing in a lab that can't be made. I worked at a startup a few years back where we built our own clean room, laminar flow benches, even a plating rig for xray targets. What we didn't build we bought cheap, a liquid nitrogen dewar from ebay etc.

Now granted, we were manufacturing scientific instrumentation but clearly it can be done.

Re:Disclaimer: IAAMB (4, Interesting)

rk (6314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231779)

And do you think it will always be that way? I recall a lot of professional computer people saying these sorts of things about computers 35 and 40 years ago. I also remember a musician friend of mine from 20 years ago hating CDs and preferring vinyl because it was cheaper for him and his band to get vinyl presses than CD presses. How's that math working now?

Sure, they're not doing much today. Next year it probably won't be much different. Let's talk about 2038, though. Sure, a small garage lab still won't be able to make what a big lab can then, either. But 30 years ago, PCR didn't even exist and you couldn't do the work you do routinely today at a lab of any size. Do you really think that trend will stop now? It has been the nature of all technology to become cheaper and doable by a smaller groups as time marches on (computer systems being one of the most radical examples). Absent a very strong regulatory regime that curbs garage molecular biology and relegates it to a black market, I can only agree with you for now, but disagree in the long term. :-)

Re:Disclaimer: IAAMB (4, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232105)

I recall a lot of professional computer people saying these sorts of things about computers 35 and 40 years ago

Yeah, whereas these days, anyone can have a processor manufacturing plant in their garage!

Terrorism (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231553)

It will soon be banned, much as anything else remotely scientific at home is in the process of becoming.

Next, just having the knowledge will get you on a watched list.

Re:Terrorism (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26232011)

It will soon be banned, much as anything else remotely scientific at home is in the process of becoming.

Next, just having the knowledge will get you on a watched list.

Why is this modded troll? This is happening all over the US and in other places around the world!

One only need to look at the decline in things like active ingredients in chemistry sets for an example.

Re:Terrorism (2)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232137)

How is the parent a troll? All it takes is for one politician or insufficiently otherwise occupied celebrity to figure out they can get attention by bringing this "disturbing trend" to light, and you've got the makings of a ban.

Maybe it won't be labeled as terrorism, but it can be used to make people afraid, and that's bleeping golden for the kind of public figures that want attention.

How long until (0, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231561)

some fool breeds a deadly unstoppable strain of a new virus/bacteria in his garage ?

genetics is no I.T. computers cant harm people, websites cant kill people. you can confiscate computers, you can take down websites. genetics is no joke.

thoughts from someone in the community (5, Insightful)

rritterson (588983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231567)

Normally I have to preface my posts with "I am not a XXXX, but". However, in this case, I actually am a molecular biologist deeply involved in the synthetic biology community. Here are a few thoughts:

First, the amount of ignorance regarding genetic engineering and it's facets (such as GMO food) is astounding. Anecdotally, I've heard that a significant fraction of British folks polled said they would prefer DNA-free food. (Think about it until you realize the ridiculousness). People typically imagine we are trying to create hybrid organisms or bizarre clone armies or something, when it reality, it's just mixing DNA that encodes for a series of proteins you would find useful in combination. To make glow in the dark yogurt that responds to melamine would be fairly simple if you had the right set of genes: a melamine sensor that, when bound to melamine, binds to a specific DNA sequence (a promoter) that drives expression of a fluorescent protein such as green fluorescent protein ("GFP", a widely used fluorescent marker derived from a jellyfish). It's not difficult, and it's not unsafe. The vast majority of DNA and proteins are degraded rapidly in your stomache, so they are safe to eat (toxins, parasites, and infectious agents excluded).

Second, people underestimate how difficult it is to accomplish something genetically. Yes, the circuit logic above is fairly simple. Unlike electrical circuits, though, where you can control electron flow with wires there is no such spatial regulation of biological parts. It's very stochastic. One has to tune the concentrations such that the melamine sensor will strongly bind to DNA at the concentrations of melamine likely to be in food, without prematurely activating and freaking people out, while also avoiding being sued because it didn't activate when it should have and someone died. Once you get the sensor right, you have to then tune the promoter so that you get expression of GFP the same way-- no leaky expression causing permanently green yogurt, but enough expression when activated such that you can see it. I can build a simple circuit to drive GFP in the presence of melamine, but getting it commercially relevant is extremely difficult.

Finally, and most importantly, the regulations of these types of technologies are, well, 2 steps from insane. There are no regulations on the transport of DNA encoding some severe toxin, to list one example. Take botulism toxin: the DNA encoding it is well known, and short enough that one could order it directly from a DNA synthesis company. From there you can use PCR to make as many copies of it as you need. Then, put it in your bacterium of choice, produce a whole bunch, and purify it out. That entire process could be done with someone with basic college level biology and about $5k. Anybody can find the botulism toxin DNA on, say, NBCI (run by the NIH) and get to work. And there are NO regulations on any of the steps required to produce it. A person with practical experience could do it much faster. I could produce enough to kill my entire university, starting from scratch, in about 2 weeks, give or take, maybe faster

A second example is the definition of 'natural' when it comes to food. Any chemical produced in a flask, chemically, is considered artificial, even if it's molecularly identical to the natural flavor molecule. On the other hand, any synthetic flavor produced by bacteria in a vat is considered natural, as long as the sugar used to feed the bacteria is also natural. The food industry is spending billions trying to engineer bacteria to produce flavors in large quantities, because the average person will think 'all natural' means healthier or better for me.

A third example involves regulation of the types of bacteria used to produce flavors: if I randomly mutagenize bacteria with UV light until I find one I like, that's considered safe, even though I probably have no idea what mutations I've actually made. On the other hand, if I go in and, with ultra-precision, make a single, targeted mutation, that's considered wildly unsafe and the FDA will throw a fit if I try to use it.

There is a raging debate among academics regarding how to introduce these types of technology to the wider public. We all believe that tinkering in the garage is a good thing, but how to do is such that we don't end up sued because we inadvertently provided some kook the sequence for botox, without making things so controlled that no one wants to take up these basic projects. If you would like to learn more about the efforts, I would start with , an NSF sponsored research center of which I am part.

Re:thoughts from someone in the community (2, Informative)

rritterson (588983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231583)

Sorry, the missing word at the end of my post was supposed to be a link to Synberc [synberc.org] . I munged the HTML, even though I previewed my post.

WTF?!?! No clone armies?!?!?!? (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231685)

Well SCREW THAT!!!

Re:thoughts from someone in the community (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231909)

rritterson,

If you ever decide to market something you've produced, you might do well to hire some PR people.

After reading your post I feel that I am now much more inclined to avoid GMO foods and am doubly glad that the nearly insane regulations you ranted about are in place.

I'm also mildly disturbed that you, personally, are in possession of the knowledge you claim to be in possession of.

Re:thoughts from someone in the community (1)

Arterion (941661) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231971)

What about prions?

I've read that some of the GMO foods we eat now were created by the "bombard and mutate" method you're describing, and that we really have no idea exactly what changes have been made. A lot of the changes are categorized as "junk dna", but who knows if it really does anything.

Let me put on my tinfoil hat before Monsanto hits me with a brain control ray. :)

wanna be gods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231573)

yeah... we all wanna be garage gods, dont we?

Sorry to spoil the fun, (1)

sega01 (937364) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231587)

but you should really take a look at "The World According to Monsanto". Hopefully these garage startups won't create the next I Am Legend :-).

Obligatory quote... (4, Interesting)

Vexler (127353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231609)

Pris: Must get lonely here J. F.

Sebastian: Mmm... Not really. I make friends. They're toys. My friends are toys. I make them. It's a hobby. I'm a genetic designer. Do you know what that is?

Pris: No.

Sebastian: Yoo-hoo, home again.

Toys: Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Good evening J. F.

I think that was a plot of B sci-fi movie? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231611)

I think that was a plot of B sci-fi movie?

Genetic Engineer a chicken with an octopus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231651)

Drumsticks for everyone!

This is future (1, Interesting)

camcorder (759720) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231663)

I'm not doing my research on my garage but at a university lab, however there's nothing prevent people doing similar research at their basements apart from cost of equipment of gene engineering. It is very similar to working with software, and I believe a good reverse engineer for software can be a good gene engineer as well.

Currently GMO seed and micro organism producers try to put 'copy protection' for their products which prevent breeding new products out of theirs. This is very similar to what software vendors trying to achieve. But as in what current cracking scene doing, in future we'll see 'garage engineers' which would 'crack' those reproduce (read: copy) protections and release reproducible cDNAs.

In past computers were very expensive so it was almost impossible for those hobbiests to work on software. After cost of this equipment diminished and people started to be able to afford them we started to see this kind of activity effectively. For biotech we need similar thing as well and it's very possible that we'll see it. Improving PCR equipments and be able to buy them with an affordable price and also cheapers chemicals and enzymes can easily make this kind of biohacks ubiquitous in future.

marajumatos (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231679)

Simple: THC in tomatoes. Might mix things up a bit.

I am going to place an order (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231681)

Here is my order for an Open Source Genetic engineering project:

Kudzu incorporating cannabis genes for buzz, strawberry genes and tomato genes for food value.

That, when released ,would fix many of the worlds problems.

Yeah, I like all three. Peach genes would be nice too.

Penicillin (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26231695)

Not exactly genetic engineering, but a couple years ago I started growing mold. Seriously. It started out accidentally as some mold in a carafe of coffee left for a few days. After reading up on it, I then was able to get some molds to grow on some lemon peels and on lemon juice. I didn't learn a whole bunch, but it was actually a lot of fun checking each day to see what had sprouted. Once it "sprouts" the mold catches pretty quickly.

What I find fascinating about garage science is that it allows complete laymen like me to try out what real scientists are doing. I feel the same way as when I got a unix prompt on my PC and was able to run a compiler to run some Newton-Rhapson solvers from my college texts. Back in college it required scheduling an hour in the lab to input and then run your programs. Now those tools are available whenever I want...

Yay! Chicks! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26231797)

Given that biology is a branch of science that girls are more likely to do, perhaps all the lonely nerds should ditch the programming and become biohackers?

Read Cyberpunk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26232057)

Am I the only one here who already read this story in a cyberpunk novel? I think it was a (short) story by Bruce Sterling... Man i wish i had vision like that (+20 20 years)

Stoners do Genetic Engineering all the Time... (2, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 5 years ago | (#26232157)

I've created a few new strains of plants. I have a near-blue catnip that took four generations to produce reliably. I've got thai peppers smaller than your pinky fingernail that'll bite your ass off, took ten generations to get that down. Haven't tried pot, yet, but since I have my medical script and card for it I just might try making my own strain of cannabis. Will probably take twenty generations for that, though.

Amateurs have been doing GE for a long time,e specially the stoners.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?