Science

Tito Jankowski and Josh Perfetto were at Maker Faire, showing off their prototype for an OpenPCR machine. A wha? PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. It is a method that can be used for replicating DNA. It can take a small amount of DNA (even a single molecule), and amplify (copy) a specific region exponentially, producing up to 230 copies of a starting molecule. The resulting material can be used to “explore your own genome, hack together DNA code, build your own biofuel, or prove that the trees in your backyard really are Truffula trees” says Tito and Josh. They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to create an OpenPCR printer design and kits so anyone can do PCR on their desktop, in their garage, hackerspace, or community lab, for $400 or less.

The above video, shot by Jeri Ellsworth at a very hectic and noisy Maker Faire, runs through their vision for this project. Nice to see that they’re already halfway to raising the desired six grand for development money.

OpenPCR – open source biotech on your desktop (Kickstarter page)
OpenPCR (project home page)

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15 thoughts on “Building an open source home DNA copy machine

  1. It can take a small amount of DNA (even a single molecule), and amplify (copy) a specific region exponentially, producing up to 230 copies of a starting molecule.

    No, up to 20 million copies of a starting molecule, I think you meant. It doubles each cycle, you see, and you typically run 20-30 cycles.

    From one to 230 isn’t very “exponential”, and it would also be next to useless. You need way more DNA than that for any kind of analysis or study.

  2. The idea of an open source PCR machine is cute, but for $400 or less you can just go on eBay and pick up a used, fully functional laboratory grade thermal cycler. Cutting-edge research and clinical labs are constantly upgrading these devices to get the latest features, but those features are useless to most garage bio-hackers. With all that perfectly good gear flooding the surplus market, there’s no need to build a new one of these.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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