The Biocurious DIY BioPrinters

Biocurious InkJetBioPrinter
bioprint petri dish
The Biocurious biohacker lab in the San Francisco Bay Area (Sunnyvale, specifically) is working on a couple of DIY bioprinters, InkJetBioPrinter and the HackteriaBot.
They’re built out of old CD-ROM drives, recycled ink cartridges and a open source Arduino boards. So far I think they just print bacteria? From the InkJetBioPrinter page:

We’ve disassembled an abandoned HP 5150 inkjet printer for use as a bioprinter. So far, we’ve pried open some ink cartridges, filles the black cartridge with arabinose, printed the BioCurious logo on filter paper, put the paper on a lawn of pGLO E. coli, and watched our logo light up in GFP!
Check out some pics on our Flickr group here:
Next, we want to start printing live cells, starting with E. coli. We’ll probably print the cells on a sheet of filter material and put it onto an agar plate, or pour a thin, dense layer of agar on a support material, and feed that into the printer directly. We’ll see…

(via H+ Magazine)

Short Documentary On The DIY Bodyhacking/Transhumanist Underground

kevin warwick
The Verge did a short documentary, and a piece of long form, participatory journalism, on the DIY transhumanist/bodyhacker/grinder/whatever movement:

The boys from Grindhouse Wetwares both sucked down Parliament menthols the whole time we talked. There was no irony for them in dreaming of the possibilities for one’s body and willfully destroying it. “For me, the end game is my brain and spinal column in a jar, and a robot body out in the world doing my bidding,” said Sarver. “I would really prefer not to have to rely on an inefficient four-valve pump that sends liquid through these fragile hoses. Fuck cheetahs. I want to punch through walls.”
Flesh and blood are easily shed in grinder circles, at least theoretically speaking. “People recoil from the idea of tampering inside the body,” said Tim. “I am lost when it comes to people’s unhealthy connections to your body. This is just a decaying lump of flesh that gets old, it’s leaking fluid all the time, it’s obscene to think this is me. I am my ideas and the sum of my experiences.” As far as the biohackers are concerned, we are the best argument against intelligent design.
Neither man has any illusions about how fringe biohacking is now. But technology marches on. “People say nobody is going to want to get surgery for this stuff,” admits Cannon. But he believes that will change. “They will or they will be left behind. They have no choice. It’s going to be weird and uncomfortable and scary. But you can do that, or you can become obsolete.”

Full Story: The Verge: Cyborg America: inside the strange new world of basement body hackers
(via Grinding)
See also:
Transcending the Human, DIY Style
DIY transhumanism on the cheap
One in four Germans wants microchip under skin

Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

The New York Times reports:

Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas, experts say. This phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery.
In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000. In late May, the Israeli police detained 10 members of an international crime ring suspected of organ trafficking in Europe, European Union law enforcement officials said. The officials said the suspects had targeted impoverished people in Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Full Story: New York Times: Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge (2003 and 2007)

The Believer has finally published Douglas Rushkoff’s interview with Genesis P. Orridge, conducted in 2007 just after Genesis’ wife Lady Jaye passed away:

DR: But, then, Jackie’s passing. Do you experience that on two levels, then? On the level of half of the pandrogene?
GO: Yeah. But I also experience it as a person who is fifty-seven and has been indoctrinated for most of my life to accept a binary world. And feeling a great sense of loss just in a romantic way, as an emotional person. Conceptually, I see that she has just broken through the final perceptual barrier. The human species won’t exist if it carries on replicating pointlessly. I think it’s very clear what we were concerned about when we began this, which was the ever-increasing polarization and reduction of ideas into dogma and paranoia, and this posturing that there’s a right way and a wrong way: I’m right, you’re wrong, and therefore I must attack you. And the whole idea of Pandrogeny is to make that irrelevant, and to bypass that. If we were all pandrogynous, physically and/or mentally, it would be impossible to be at war, because there wouldn’t be a sense of difference all the time.
DR: So does the project continue? You as a lone pandrogene?
GO: It’s not convenient. Because there are lots of things we had in mind that would use both of us in the projects. So I have to try and figure out ways to represent those ideas anyway.
DR: Or start on the new ones. I mean, gender may be an artificial duality perpetrated by DNA and all… but what about death? That’s got to be the biggest, baddest duality of them all. It’s not so very hard to see through gender as a social construction. An illusory divide, like you’ve shown. But death is entirely more convincing. We die, and the people to whom we’ve passed our genes take our place. Death feels like DNA’s last laugh, its final tyranny over us.

The Believer: Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge.
Arthur Magazine published another conversation between the two back in 2003. Once upon a time, Rushkoff, Genesis and Grant Morrison were planning to write a book together. It was meant to essentially be a collection of conversations between the three of them. The Arthur interview may give us a sense of what that book may have been like (and the plan for a book may help explain the preoccupation with co-authorship in the interview). It’s also interesting to Rushkoff talk about themes that later became the basis of his books Life Inc and Program or Be Programmed:

DR: That’s why for me the open-source software movement is such a terrific allegory and practice for accepting the fact that we live in a malleable reality. Or certainly for accepting that a hell of a lot more of our world is programmable software than we’ve previously thought. There might be some hardware down there somewhere, but we haven’t got close to that yet. People are starting to accept that they have indeed been the programmers, whether they were witting or not, and that they’re actively programming the world we live in. I think it’s healthy for people to realize this. I think that then they start to experience everything—from their bodies to the air we breathe—as a medium through which they can create and transmit their story.
G P-O: Absolutely. Well you know that Burroughs and Gysin used to say, In a pre-recorded universe, who made the first recording? I’ve thought about that a lot. And what it led me to wasn’t so much wondering about that question, because I think you’re right, it doesn’t matter, actually, but what it did make me realize is that the entire planet is a recording device. That, as you and I are speaking now, on this planet, there is, certainly it seems that way, and we’ll probably find more, there’s some kind of data recorded—whether it be fossils, geological strata—
DR: [laughing]: Or the digital cassette that we’re recording on right now.

See also: my interview with Rushkoff.

Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests May Wildly Overestimate Your Risk of Disease

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31.
Although the predictive ability of the DTC tests in the study was moderate for all diseases, both companies assigned an increased risk to a substantial part of the group. Yet the risk of disease in this group was often not substantially higher than the risk in the rest of the population studied. For AMD, the disease with the highest predictive ability, both companies assumed that the risk in the population was around 8%. Of all subjects designated as having an increased risk, 16% using the 23andMe risk estimations and 19% using deCODEme’s estimations would develop AMD, compared to the 4% found in the rest of the population studied. […]
“deCODEme predicted risks higher than 100% for five out of the eight diseases,” Ms Kalf will say. “This in itself should be enough to raise considerable concern about the accuracy of these predictions — a risk can never be higher than 100%. In the case of AMD one in every 200 individuals in the group would have received a predicted risk of higher than 100%, suggesting that they would definitely develop the disease.”

Science Daily: Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests
(via Edward Borasky)
Oh well, at least we’ll always have palm reading.

Scientists Can Now Rewrite DNA


MIT and Harvard researchers have developed technologies that could be used to rewrite the genetic code of a living cell, allowing them to make large-scale edits to the cell’s genome. Such technology could enable scientists to design cells that build proteins not found in nature, or engineer bacteria that are resistant to any type of viral infection.
The technology, described in the July 15 issue of Science, can overwrite specific DNA sequences throughout the genome, similar to the find-and-replace function in word-processing programs. Using this approach, the researchers can make hundreds of targeted edits to the genome of E. coli, apparently without disrupting the cells’ function.

MIT News: Scientists unveil tools for rewriting the code of life
(via Richard Yonck)

Scientists Want to Make a Lysergic Acid Factory from Microbes

Lysergic acid
The headline for The Guardian article about this says the scientists want to make LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), but the article itself says they want to make lysergic acid (with no diethylamide), a precursor to LSD with other uses.

They said developing biofuels was a terrible business strategy, because fuel was so cheap. Why not make expensive compounds, like pharmaceuticals, instead?
The advice got Wintermute thinking. What was the most valuable compound they could make with the toolkit of synthetic biology? Some research came up with a few candidates including a few very sophisticated cancer drugs. But another compound was up there in monetary terms: LSD. The value by weight was astronomical.
Wintermute and his colleagues had a good laugh about that. But the more they looked into it, the more interesting – and viable – the drug looked. Around 20 tonnes of lysergic acid, a precursor of LSD, are made each year and turned into real medicines, such as nicergoline, a treatment for dementia. The drug is purified from big vats of fungus (which make the compound naturally) using technology developed decades ago.

The Guardian: Harvard scientists to make LSD factory from microbes
(via DrBenway23)

Bioart Project Seeks to Extract, Copy and Spread William S. Burroughs's DNA – From a Preserved Turd

William S. Burroughs turd
Here’s a bizarre bioart project. It actually sounds like something out of one of his novels:

1: Take a glob of William S. Burroughs’ preserved shit
2: Isolate the DNA with a kit
3: Make, many, many copies of the DNA we extract
4: Soak the DNA in gold dust
5: Load the DNA dust into a genegun (a modified air pistol)
6: Fire the DNA dust into a mix of fresh sperm, blood and shit
7: Call the genetically modified mix of blood, shit, and sperm a living bioart, a new media paint, a living cut-up literary device and/or a mutant sculpture.

HP+: Mutate or Die: a W.S. Burroughs Biotechnological Bestiary
(via Boing Boing)

Can You Imagine a Future Where London Police Bees Conduct Genetic Surveillance?

genetic surveillance warning
Designer Thomas Thwaites (who built this DIY toaster with iron ore gathered by hand) has created a project called “Policing Genes,” envisioning a future in which bees are used for genetic surveillance:

Other than a few obvious illegal narcotic plants, it hadn’t occurred to me that the genetics of what is growing in a person’s garden could become a police matter. Even more intriguing/trippy was the possibility of the police using bees for surveillance and for forensically identifying the pollen that the bees came back with. If that pollen is genetically outside of the law, the police could use the bees to track a person right to the house he or she lives in. […]
Thomas Thwaites, however, has put a great deal of thought into genetic engineering and the policing of those genes. Thwaites pointed out that the ability to insert genes into plants is now DIY technology available to both the amateur and the criminal. “Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.”

Computerworld: Police bees for surveillance, tracking and buzzzsting biohackers?
Policing Genes
See also:
We Make Money Not Art’s interview with Thwaites
Biopunk: the biotechnology black market

Hong Kong Group Building Encrypted Bacterial Data Storage

Chinese University of Hong Kong iGem

Data encryption and storage has always been an important branch of research in computer engineering. In our project, we explored the possibility of harnessing a biological system as an alternative solution for data en/decryption and storage. Using bacteria as the information storage device is not new. However the practicability of previous research is being doubt due to the limited size of information available to be inserted into the bacteria.
We recognized the current barricades in developing a truly useful system and we forecasted the indispensable modules that one would be anticipating when putting fantasy into reality. This year, we have proposed a model that is a true, massively parallel bacterial data storage system.
In addition we have created an encryption module with the R64 Shufflon-Specific Recombinase to further secure the information. Together with the data proof-read/correction and random access modules developed, our expectation is high – we believe this could be an industrial standard in handling large scale data storage in living cells.

Team:Hong Kong-CUHK –
(via Wade)