It’s time to get in to the nitty gritty. You’ve decided to get your hands dirty, but which of the many DIYbio projects will you tackle? How will you find one that is at your level of understanding/expertise? Where to get the instructions? Well, first of all, you can probably narrow all of the DIYbio projects by looking at the required hardware/goods that are needed. If you have access to a lab, then anything is fair game. If you don’t have access to a lab, you may want to start with building some DIYbio lab equipment as your first project. I’ll be building this list (and the hardware list) over time, mostly by culling from and consolidating materials from around the web. An obvious disclaimer: you may be working with everything from electronics to saws to chemicals, so handle with care, and always take the necessary precautions before you start a project. This can mean proper protective gear (goggles, lab coat, gloves, etc), to simply having someone show you how to use a jigsaw before you pick one up and decide to start cutting materials up.
Citizen Science Projects (Easy)
- Help Discover New Antibiotics
- Mapping Soil Bacteria Diversity
- Eve Online’s Project Discovery which helps with the Human Protein Atlas
DIYbio Projects (Intermediate)
Here’s the basic rundown. Scientists from Michigan State University discovered that if they used certain chemicals and washing procedures, they could remove the cells from an organ, like, let’s say, a heart. You may have thought that a heart was composed entirely of cells in the first place, so if you remove the cells, what do you have left? But in actually, there is an extra-cellular matrix composed of various proteins that acts as the scaffolding around which the cells organize themselves. If you remove all the cells (and therefore all of the DNA), you are left with the scaffolding only.
The hope is that some time down the road that these ghost organs can be used as transplant organs for those needing them by seeding the ghost organs with the waiting patient’s own cells. This would effectively make it so that they are receiving a heart (or other organ) that is entirely made of their own DNA, which eliminates the risk of rejection. Plus, and in an entirely Dr. Frankenstein sort of eerie way, you could theoretically use the heart of a pig and place it in a human, since pig hearts are of similar size and functional capacity.