”Idle” Americans fiddling with foundations of life on Earth from homes!

December 27th, 2008 - 1:39 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Dec 27 (ANI): Bitten by the science bug, thousands of Americans have developed a new hobby-genetic engineering. ”Fashionably” known as biohacking, the activity involves spending free time consulting the Internet, jerry-rigging laboratory equipment, and tinkering with the very foundations of life on Earth.
For the exercise, the Americans have developed their own labs in places ranging from a garage or basement or even just some extra room on their dining table.
“People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process,” Times Online quoted Meredith Patterson, 31, a computer programmer by day turned biohacker by night.
Currently, Patterson is working in her San Francisco dining room, attempting to rewire the DNA of yoghurt bacteria so that they will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that infamously turned Chinese-made baby milk formula into poison.
She has claimed that she learnt her basics of genetic engineering from scientific papers and Google.
And all she needed for her project was a jar of yoghurt, some jellyfish DNA (purchased online for less than 100 dollars from a biological supply company) and a few pieces of lab equipment (including a DNA analyser), which she constructed herself for less than 25 dollars.
However, experts have claimed that such equipment could soon be sold in kits-a kind of My Little Genetically-Altered Lifeform playset for adults.
Although, biohackers know the risks associated with the field, they argued that it was DIYers who brought about America’’s other great technological revolution-the personal computer.
And what looks like, the popularity of biohacking is growing day by day-In Cambridge, Massachusetts, an organisation named DIYbio is planning to set up a community lab where people can use specialist equipment such as a freezer capable of storing bacteria at minus 62C.
The group’’s co-founder, Mackenzie Cowell, 24, who studied biology at university, predicted that while some biohackers may make breakthroughs in everything from vaccines to super-efficient fuels, others will simply fool around.
For example, many would just use squid genes to make tattoos glow in the dark. However, he said that it would ultimately benefit humanity.
“We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game,” he said.
But not everyone agrees. According to Jim Thomas, of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog group, synthetic organisms could ultimately escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.
“Once you move to people working in their garage or other informal locations, there’’s no safety processes in place,” he said.
And he said further that terrorists could be inspired by amateur genetic tinkering to launch a devastating bioattack on America. (ANI)

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