DIY gene editing: This home use kit makes CRISPR accessible to all

Journalist Lana Schwartz used Jo Zayner's DIY kit to edit human kidney tissue at home.
Nergis Firtina
DIY Bacterial Gene Engineering CRISPR Kit.
DIY Bacterial Gene Engineering CRISPR Kit.

The ODIN  

Genetic engineering for everyone!

Yes, this is possible thanks to biohacker and artist Jo Zayner's DIY kits and classes. It's possible that you met Zayner on Netflix through the documentary called "Unnatural Selections," which, released in 2019, revealed how DNA could be changed using CRISPR technology.

By establishing The ODIN, Zayner's genetic engineering education became accessible with kits such as the "DIY Bacterial Gene Engineering CRISPR Kit." Well, you may hesitate to use it, but Lana Schwartz from Vice didn't and shared her experiences.

As reported by Schwartz, she started to take Human Tissue Culture and Engineering 201 class, which aims to teach students how to edit DNA through an experiment that involves making HEK (Human Embryonic Kidney). Got the kit just a couple of days before the class, "it came with amateur science equipment, a "Biohacking is Not a Crime" sticker, the kidney cells I'd hoped for, and vials of brightly colored liquids for the DNA-editing experiment," she said.

DIY gene editing: This home use kit makes CRISPR accessible to all
Editing genome with CRISPR technology.

"To edit the genome of kidney cells, students use pipettes to add a variety of liquids with funky names to the cells. One of them was a plasmid containing the DNA coding for an antibiotic-resistance gene. The other liquids were involved in, as I like to think about it, shoving the DNA into the cells.," she added.

According to Schwartz, she felt like she was cooking during the lessons and while working on the experiment kit, and she even said that she thought she could apply this experiment to her DNA after a while.

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Even if CRISPR technology is a kind of revolution in genetic engineering, some experts emphasize CRISPR therapies could cause cancer or have unintended consequences. Some critics are concerned about environmental degradation, eugenics, and bioterrorism. But what exactly is CRISPR?

Acronym for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats," CRISPR is a DNA sequence family found in the genomes of prokaryotic organisms like bacteria and archaea. These sequences are derived from bacteriophage DNA fragments that previously infected the prokaryote. They are used in subsequent infections to detect and destroy DNA from similar bacteriophages.

What about the kit?

You learn everything you need to know to practice bioengineering in the kit and class. Without prior experience. The class has eight lectures and experiments. The basic kit includes:

  • 0.5-10 uL pipette 
  • 10-100 uL pipette 
  • 100-1000 uL pipette 
  • 0.5-10 uL tips
  •  10-100 uL tips 
  • 100-1000 uL tips 
  • Microcentrifuge tube rack 
  • Petri dishes Scale and weigh boats
  •  Glass bottle 
  • Nitrile Gloves 
  • Orange film and Blue light 
  • Microcentrifuge tubes 
  • Inoculation Loops 
  • LB agar 
  • 50 mL tube for measuring 
  • Colored water for pipetting practice
  • Bioluminescent Bacteria Grow Kit
  • GFP Bacteria Kit
  • CRISPR Kit
  • pDusk/ pDawn Biosensors Kit

Who is Jo Zayner?

Jo Zayner is a biohacker, artist, and scientist most known for their self-experimentation and work liberalizing CRISPR and making hands-on genetic engineering approachable to laypeople. At the NASA Ames Space Synthetic Biology Research Center in Mountain View, California, Zayner worked on the development of Martian colony habitats for two years. Zayner considers himself a biohacker and thinks it's important to involve the public in scientific research as opposed to keeping it confined to laboratories. In particular, Zayner found the academic biohacking community to be exclusionary and hierarchical in terms of the personalities who determine what is "safe."

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