Monday, December 5, 2011

Biohackers Bring Genetic Lab Home

Biohackers are attempting to bring the study of genetics and other sciences to the people by making inexpensive biotechnology. These innovations are sold for fractions of the cost of professional equipment and are simple enough to use at home. One of these devices is a homemade apparatus for performing PCR called OpenPCR. The professional machine costs a minimum of $6,000 whereas OpenPCR only costs $599, a tenth of the price.  Biohackers are excited for the possible educational opportunities the simplified technology will provide people who do not have access to a bio lab. People who could not have exposure to biotechnology whether from restrictive costs or simply because they are not studying in a college or university science lab can now learn how genetics is studied and manipulated in a lab.

Some of the technologies created by hackers are being utilized by professionals. The SpikerBox is an example of one such technology. The SpikerBox recognizes, copies and makes audible the sound of neurons firing. The genius of the technology lies in its low cost, only $90. The professional equivalent, the Preamplifier, costs $2,400. W. David Stahlman, a professor of psychology at UCLA, used the SpikerBox in his research.  His project was about hermit crab behavior and he used the SpikerBox to observe how behaviors are exhibited within the brain of the hermit crab. He said that the advantages to using this technology were the low cost as well as its ability to upload to an iPhone or an iPad.

Biohackers should be applauded for trying to innovate ways to perform lab techniques in less expensive ways. As scientific research costs decrease, funding can be used to do further research than is currently possible. Also, it allows for the general public to gain exposure to biotechnology which could increase overall awareness of how scientific discoveries are made. In terms of genetics, biotechnology would allow aspiring geneticists to perform independent experiments without prohibitive costs.

This is a summary of an article from Wired Magazine titled, "Genome at Home: Biohackers Build Their Own Labs."

1 comment:

  1. Thats really cool. I wonder if there are adverse effects to reading neuron activity through a piece of "backyard" equipment. I, for one, probably wouldn't hook anything that cost $90 to my head.