“LEGO Analogy Sucks”

hmm. According to a report by the Wilson Center on “Communicating Synthetic Biology”, the term “Legos” had a negative effect when applied to synthetic biology.

I use this analogy all the time. Seems to work well, but surprised their study says different. Maybe participants simply checked negative because they were irritated because the term is actually LEGO? I would know but I only skimmed the rest of the study.

Read the full study here

Figure 7: Focus group participants illustrate which words they find negative (red), positive (blue) or neutral (light blue and pink) when applied to synthetic biology

IMG_8910.PNG

Is it Safe to Get an MRI?

I’ve been thinking about getting an MRI scan even though I don’t need one.

Maybe a scan of my brain or of my spine, so 5 to 10 years from now I can get another scan and see what’s changed. I’ve been researching the cost, the procedure, and the value of an MRI without a pressing medical need. The first thing I wanted to figure out is: is it safe to get an MRI?

Read the rest of this entry

When Genetically Modified Things Leave the Lab


Today, genetically engineered products are in our bellies, our refrigerators, and our clothes. They’re the food that goes in our bodies, muscles, bones, and brains. 2% of the US GDP is from genetically modified systems. My background is in biomedical engineering, and I’m excited about the future of genetic engineering.

94% of Corn grown in the USA is genetically engineered. Corn is in everything: soda pop has corn syrup in it, and cattle (where beef comes from) eat lots of corn. We have a corn-ography addiction. 49% of Sugar in the United States are genetically engineered. 93% of Soy is genetically engineered. Vegans and meat-eaters have something in common! What you might not know is genetically modified products will be much bigger than food. Read the rest of this entry

Human Genomes on SALE: 99% OFF!

genome sequencing for everyone

The price of DNA sequencing your genome has dropped 99.999999% since 2003. For those of you discussing the “falling price of DNA sequencing”, it’s time to stop. Sure, it’s fun to think about a future when sequencing genomes will be so much cheaper. But we’re here. Today, you can sequence your genome for $3,000. This isn’t even news, those prices were announced 3 months ago and no one got out their party hats.  I’ve even heard the Beijing Genomics Institute offers $800 genomes when you buy 10 genomes at once. Now what do we do with it? Read the rest of this entry

The $500,000 DNA Sequencer – Tear Down

BioCurious has amazing friends. We bought a surplus Illumina Genome Analyzer DNA sequencer. For $1.

This Illumina Genome Analyzer (GA) DNA sequencer is from 2008 and originally sold for $500,000. Because of the dropping cost of DNA sequencing, today in 2013 it would be more costly for BioCurious to use this older sequencer than to just using a DNA sequencing service. We were lucky enough to have some friends at Illumina who sold us the sequencer cheap. We decided the best use would be to take it apart to see how it works. Derek Jacoby and Raymond McCauley taught us how “Next Generation” DNA sequencing works and we spent Sunday taking the sequencer apart. Read the rest of this entry

DNA Sequencing my Guts

human microbiome

Any instructions with a picture titled “Amount of material needed for fecal sample” have to be either mundane or awesome. In this case it’s totally awesome. These instructions are for the American Gut microbiome project that arrived in the mail last week. They demand to sequence the DNA of bacteria in my guts.

Your body is said to have its own micro biome of many different types of bacteria living in and on you. You probably did a report on your favorite “biome” as a 5th grade science project. Your favorite was probably “Tundra”, “Desert”, or “Marine” because those are awesome and probably no one in your class reported on “Grasslands”. On Earth, a “biome” is a classification of an area based on what’s living there. Biomes are distinct habitats. “Micro biome” is a new term that’s meant to define all the microbes in an area of your body.

Read the rest of this entry

The $2,000 Biotech Classroom

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 11.39.20 AMBiomedical engineering is the most valuable college major. Getting high school students excited about biotech is a nightmare because it takes a ton of energy and time. Where’s the happy medium?

This is a rough guide of how to set up a high school classroom DNA lab. I’ve done a lot of work to make the process more simple for students and hobbyists and learned some tricks along the way. I hope these will save you hours of stress setting up your lab and keeping it running. Plus, I can rattle off all these steps as good as this guy rapping about 200 decimals of pi so I figured it would be best to write them down. Read the rest of this entry