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12-28-08, 08:34 PM #1
Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home
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.
In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.
"People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process," she said.
So far, no major gene-splicing discoveries have come out anybody's kitchen or garage.
But critics of the movement worry that these amateurs could one day unleash an environmental or medical disaster. Defenders say the future Bill Gates of biotech could be developing a cure for cancer in the garage.
Many of these amateurs may have studied biology in college but have no advanced degrees and are not earning a living in the biotechnology field. Some proudly call themselves "biohackers" — innovators who push technological boundaries and put the spread of knowledge before profits.
In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.
Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.
Cowell said such unfettered creativity could produce important discoveries.
"We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game," he said.
Patterson, the computer programmer, wants to insert the gene for fluorescence into yogurt bacteria, applying techniques developed in the 1970s.
She learned about genetic engineering by reading scientific papers and getting tips from online forums. She ordered jellyfish DNA for a green fluorescent protein from a biological supply company for less than $100. And she built her own lab equipment, including a gel electrophoresis chamber, or DNA analyzer, which she constructed for less than $25, versus more than $200 for a low-end off-the-shelf model.
Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.
"Once you move to people working in their garage or other informal location, there's no safety process in place," he said.
Some also fear that terrorists might attempt do-it-yourself genetic engineering. But Patterson said: "A terrorist doesn't need to go to the DIYbio community. They can just enroll in their local community college."
By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer Marcus Wohlsen, Associated Press Writer – Thu Dec 25, 4:03 pm ET
12-29-08, 01:26 PM #2
Wow.Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012
12-29-08, 01:40 PM #3
If you want to see new life forms become a police officer and deal with mankind's bio rejects.SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM-Ex-Sheriff Martin Howe to Will Kane in "High Noon"
"It's a great life. You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If your honest , your poor your whole life. And , In the end , you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star."
Far from being a handicap to command, compassion is the measure of it. For unless one values the lives of his soldiers and is tormented by their ordeals , he is unfit to command.
-General Omar Bradley, United States Army
12-29-08, 03:58 PM #4
So this is where the amateur superheros came from.
Originally Posted by William Pitt (the Younger), Speech in the House of Commons (18 November, 1783)
12-30-08, 12:15 AM #5
Welfare has been used by the Democats to develop a pliable, intellectually deficient, totally dependent, and easily herded (and stampeded), rapidly reproducing analog of a human.
Meth maggots have developed their own branch on the tree of man.Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.-- Anonymous
Old People, like me, may not be around to witness the destruction of our Nation. The rest of you may not survive the collapse. We all have the sworn duty to prevent it.
The light of hope burns brighter than the fires of doom.
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