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DIY Bio: A Growing Movement Takes on Aging

A movement is growing quietly, steadily, and with great speed. In basements, attics, garages, and living rooms, amateurs and professionals alike are moving steadily towards disparate though unified goals. They come home from work or school and transform into biologists: do-it-yourself biologists, to be exact.

DIYbiology (“DIYbio”) is a homegrown synthesis of software, hardware, and wetware. In the tradition of homebrew computing and in the spirit of the Make space (best typified by o‘Reilly‘s Make Magazine), these DIYers hack much more than software and electronics. These biohackers build their own laboratory equipment, write their own code (computer and genetic) and design their own biological systems. They engineer tissue, purify proteins, extract nucleic acids and alter the genome itself. Whereas typical laboratory experiments can run from tens-of-thousands to millions of dollars, many DIYers knowledge of these fields is so complete that the best among them design and conduct their own experiments at stunningly low costs. With adequate knowledge and ingenuity, DIYbiologists can build equipment and run experiments on a hobbyist‘s budget. As the movement evolves, cooperatives are also springing up where hobbyists are pooling resources and creating “hacker spaces” and clubs to further reduce costs, share knowledge and boost morale.

This movement, still embryonic, could become a monster — a proper rival to industry, government, and academic labs. The expertise needed to make serious breakthroughs on a regular basis at home hasn‘t yet reached a critical mass, but there are good reasons to believe that this day will soon come…

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