Home biohacker: Creating deadly human pathogens ‘is not that easy’

| | June 8, 2018
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Image credit: Andrew Tarantola
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Using the handy tools sent in [the ODIN’s Genetk Design Kit], I was set to re-engineer some nonpathogenic E. coli in my kitchen. That might sound terrifying; surely journalists shouldn’t be trusted to build superbugs. Relax. The lab-created strain provided in the kit was developed to be easy to engineer and does not live in the wild.

I made two batches of genetically engineered bacteria. The genomes of E. coli consist of about 4 million DNA base pairs; the goal of this experiment was to change just one of those, which should be enough to allow the bacteria to resist the streptomycin.

More than 60 hours later, by squinting hard, I detected a few tiny scattered colonies on one of the antibiotic-infused plates doused with bacteria from the first transformation batch. As recommended by The ODIN—even though the E. coli I was working with is non-pathogenic—I then sterilized all the plates by dousing them with a bleach solution. While my experiment posed no danger to public health, some worry DIY CRISPRing could create deadly pandemics. But sextillions of daily natural experiments suggest that creating human pathogens is not that easy. Plus, vastly more researchers will be developing beneficial uses of CRISPR, including early warning diagnostics and treatments enabling us to counter any future pandemics.

Related article:  'Stupidity-inducing environment': Are we getting dumber?

Read full, original post: Adventures in Home Biohacking with CRISPR

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