Synthetic Biology plays with the design and construction of new biological parts or systems and redesign existing natural systems (for example,a a biotech hacker space in Oakland, California, are trying to make cow’s milk cheese without the cow. Using mail-order DNA, they’re tricking yeast cells into producing a substance that’s molecularly identical to milk. And if successful, they’ll turn this milk into cheese. Real cheese. But vegan cheese. Real vegan cheese.
Even little kids are getting in the game. The Pittsburgh Citizen Science Lab, a hands-on laboratory (think Tech Shop for manipulating DNA) open to everyone to observe, experiment and explore the life sciences. Among the exciting fall workshops are the DNA Color Code, an hour and a half workshop where students in grades 3-5 will develop the skill necessary to extract “DNA” from candy and run that “DNA” on an electrophoresis gel. Students will also learn how to properly use micropipettes and other scientific equipment as well as how to make an Agarose gel from scratch,
High schools and universities are gearing up for the iGEM competition. The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) is an annual, world wide, synthetic biology event aimed at undergraduate university students, as well as high school and graduate students. Multidisciplinary teams work all summer long to build genetically engineered systems using standard biological parts called Biobricks. iGEM teams work inside and outside the lab, creating sophisticated projects that strive to create a positive contribution to their communities and the world.
For those who want to stay at home, you can order from Synbiota created a “DNA Tinker Kit” that allows anyone to experiment with biology in a way that was once reserved for expensive laboratories. The kit contains materials that let you design, build, and grow inventions by rapidly prototyping DNA. Essentially, the kit is similar to a LEGO set for biological organisms.
5th grade Kitty Whisperers worked hard last year on a science fair project comparing the feline genome to the human genome. Their teacher was complaining that the science that were running into in their research he had forgotten since he was in high school. I reminded him that the human genome wasn’t sequenced when he was in high school.
Seventy percent of job growth is coming from the new business start-ups. Synthetic biology is at the forefront of biomedical research and medical innovation. Find out more at