Genome Engineering at Home
An IndieGoGo project recently started by Dr. Josiah Zayner, a molecular biophysicist, is trying to raise $10,000 in just 34 days. The goal? Raise enough money to produce an amazing product that will allow individuals to do genome engineering experiments at home.
The technique is called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR). Unlike previous techniques, which were technical and rather advanced, CRISPR is widely popular because it is precise yet relatively easy to use.
Yes, editing and engineering DNA is a task that nearly anyone can do, if they know how.
In essence, using a protein called CAS9, the technique can find a very specific sequence in a DNA sequence and cut it. CAS9 occurs naturally in cells as part of the immune system and, by finding and remembering parts of virus DNA, a cell can recognize and attack it when infected. This process enables genetic researchers to cut away and insert new DNA sequences at specific points in the genes of nearly any living cell.
DIY CRISPR Kits
The IndieGoGo project has, so far, raised over $4,000, and in just 7 days! It offers you 12 different options at varying prices—so no matter if you are just an interested enthusiast or a hardcore genetic engineer, there is something for you. Case in point, for $6 you get a biohacker sticker, and at the other extreme, in order to ensure that you can make your own original genetically engineered organism, Dr. Zayner will work with you to edit the genome of a bacteria or yeast to contain a unique trait for $5,000,.
However, there are a number of notable things between these two extremes. For as low as $130, you can have your own Bacteria DIY CRISPR Kit, which includes everything you need to make precision genome edits in bacteria at home including CAS9, gRNA, and donor DNA templates for an example experiment.
The IndieGogo project is an offshoot of the Open Discovery Institute or ODIN, which Dr. Zayner established a year ago to provide resources to biohackers who want to do science at home. In his spare time, he teaches biohacking classes and tests protocols to build the kits.