What’s the Latest Development?
Do-it-yourself biology labs, which cost relatively nothing to start and can be housed in a garage, may usher in the next generation of medical treatments and entrepreneurship. Forward-thinkers from Bill Gates to MIT and the FBI are recognizing the groundbreaking potential of biohacking, or creating artificial life with DNA synthesis. Already, thanks to a competition sponsored by MIT, high school and college students have created a designer vaccine against the bug that causes most ulcers and turned bacterial cells into hemoglobin-producing blood substitutes.
What’s the Big Idea?
Cloning and sequencing a gene once took three years, and in the process you earned a PhD. Today, the same process takes less than three days. “Machines for amplifying DNA can now be purchased online, whilst enzymes and chemicals for creating, manipulating and sticking together DNA can be ordered off the shelf. The cost of sequencing DNA has plummeted, from about $100,000 for reading a million letters, or base pairs, of DNA code in 2001, to around 10 cents today.” Those familiar with the biohacking movement say genetic tinkering is most similar to the computer tinkering which gave rise to the computing industry.
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