A revolution might be ongoing in science. And it promises to democratise research and make it accessible to everyone.
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Biohacking, also known as do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, is a revolutionary movement with the potential to radically transform people’s approach to life sciences. It basically consists of individuals – from PhD-level researchers to science enthusiasts who have never stepped inside a lab before – joining together to set up laboratories in their garages or in other untraditional venues.
The biohacking movement arose in the US around 15 years ago, and kept growing since then. The use of the Internet was crucial not only as the goldmine where to find and buy second hand instruments discarded from proper labs, but also, and especially, for helping these science amateurs to join together and move from simple curiosity into the next level.
Today many biohacking labs are large and vibrant places, like TheLAB in Los Angeles or Genspace in New York. In these new venues, people can get free lectures on how to become a researcher or simply learn by doing. You can make your yogurt glowing in the dark by adding the genetic sequence coding for a GFP protein (green fluorescent protein). People can sequence their own DNA or even take the extra step and sequence the DNA from a pricey cheese in order to find out if it is indeed what they have paid for. On DIYbio.org it is possible to see the quite impressive number of biohacking groups that have arisen all around the world.
There are several drawbacks and problems undermining the revolutionary role that biohacking might play in life sciences. First of all, there is a consistent budget problem in setting up and in running biohacklab. Secondly, there’s the issue of the lack of expertise of the people working in these labs.
So, what’s the role played by biohacking in bringing science to people?