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Biohacking / DIY Bio



Biohacking or DIY Bio

These are notes from the Public Lab Barnraising in New Orleans (4-6 Oct 2013). A group of Public Lab members discussed the following:

1. What do we understand to be Biohacking? 2. How does Biohacking fit into the Public Lab mission statement? 3. What are some Biohacking activities Public Lab members could engage with or build up?

The following results or conclusions can be reported:

1. What do we understand to be Biohacking?

These are the raw statements of the participants; Biohacking is/means:

"Using a biological system for my own purpose, where that purpose is different from its natural or traditional use" - "Modifying bioprocesses/organisms" - "Getting a (bio) body to do something else" - "Rearranging the genetic code" - "Bring DIY tools into biolabs" - "Mimicking natural systems" - "Hacking biology and making experiments cheaper and more accessible" - "Building specific sensors or equipment to measure biological data (e.g. galvanic skin responses)"

The conclusion was that Biohacking might be best thought of as involving the use of a biological system to accomplish some goal; using tech equipment to measure biological data is perhaps not Biohacking, but certainly useful as e.g. DIY medical technology etc.

2. How does Biohacking fit into the Public Lab mission statement?

The mission statement states amongst others that the mission is to "generate knowledge and share data about environmental health". Therefore, we should try to find applications of Biohacking that help us understand the environment, monitor the environment or improve the environment (e.g. bioremediation).

3. What are some Biohacking activities Public Lab members could engage with or build up?

We discussed several options for activities (in order of complexity):

  • Looking at simple instructables (e.g. DNA extraction instructable) and creating workshops based on these. (this is more of a warm-up for DIY bio/Biohacking that would be more in line with the Public Lab mission)
  • Create a Lemna (duckweed) bio assay to monitor toxins in the environment (this is done routinely by ecotoxicologists all over the world). This could be combined with the infragram for looking a plant health (one might be able to tell quickly in the duck weed, what might happen to a larger plant over longer time)
  • Bioremediation: Look into plants or even animals (e.g. mussels) to mop up toxins in the environment (something like this (bio swales) is already going on in the Gowanus Canal project in Brooklyn, NY)
  • Extract your own DNA and then test it using DIY PCR and gel electrophoresis to check for genetic markers (e.g. BRCA for breast cancer)
  • Create a home testing kit for detecting estrogen in the environment (Yeast based assay is possible and Sara has tried to start this project in collaboration with Northeastern University in Boston)

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