Disrupted Humanity – playing God with amateur gene editing (yes, really)

Now you can create your own bioweapons at home – accidentally or otherwise

iDisrupted Commentary

I don’t like CRISPR. Even with vast amounts of data in AI systems we still really don’t understand the implications of human genome editing. We’ve already started clinically trialling genetically modified mosquitos, now there is a home brew kit for bacterial modification at home. Forget brewing beer let’s make biological weapons of mass destruction instead.

From Engadget: “Twenty-three years after its cinematic debut, I finally understand where Alec Baldwin was coming from in the 1993 psychological thriller Malice. The power to bring life where once there was none is a potent drug. I was recently afforded the opportunity to create a new kind of bacterial life thanks to the DIY Bacterial CRISPR Kit from Bio-Hacking collective The Odin. I honestly haven’t had this much fun doing science since AP Chem.

Amateur Biological WarfareThe Odin offers a number of experimental kits, including advanced sets that leverage CRISPR gene editing breed bioluminescent bacteria or search for new antibiotic compounds. The set I tried, however, was far more rudimentary: I was to modify the genes of a harmless E. coli strain so that it can survive in a hostile environment that it would otherwise perish in.

Specifically, these E. coli bacteria (like all eukaryotic cells) produce proteins, tiny biological machines that perform all sorts of critical functions within the cell, in order to stay alive. Proteins are made by a structure called the ribosome. Under normal conditions aboard an agar-filled petri dish, the bacteria have no problem generating these molecules and will thrive. But if you try to use them to colonize an agar plate that also contains the molecule streptomycin, they’ll quickly die. This is because streptomycin binds with the E. coli ribosome and prevents it from operating. However, using CRISPR technology, you can knock out the gene that streptomycin binds with, thereby enabling the bacteria to live in this otherwise deadly environment.”more