Wednesday, February 22, 2006
DIY Biowar... Made Easy!
But of course this has a downside; frankly, I had no idea that mail-order and DIY DNA sequencing was so easy:
Eventually, we fumble our way to a plastic dish full of translucent goop. If I’d been working on smallpox—and really committed to my cause—this would have been the part where I’d inject a lab animal with the stuff to see if it got sick. Then I’d give myself a dose and head off on a days-long, multi-airport, transnational suicide run. But it was just yeast. Set on top of a black light, it glowed an eerie bright blue, like a Jimi Hendrix poster. My creation ... lived.
DNA synthesis is following a kind of accelerated Moore’s law—the faster and easier it gets, the faster and easier it gets. Last year, a group of researchers synthesized DNA strands of more than 300,000 base pairs—longer than the smallpox genome—using a method that eliminates most of the shake-and-bake lab steps I’d spent weeks learning.
Now, let's keep in mind the timeframe revealed in that last sentence - weeks, not months, not years. And this is for someone who had no lab training.