Biohacking and Synthetic Biology
This page replicates the texts and images from the wall outsite the open science space at Medical Museion.
Biotechnology is usually locked away in universities and private industrial laboratories, but biohackers and do-it-yourself (DIY) biologists want to set it free. Biohackers aim to make the tools of biotech available to everyone. They set up public labs where people can come and experiment, and produce cheap ‘hacks’ that replace expensive equipment.
Biohacking is also about innovation, creativity and playfulness. Doing things differently, using the resources to hand. Dreaming big, but requiring little. This room is an installation of a biohacking lab. Cobbled together from discarded lab furniture, IKEA cupboards and inexpensive handmade instruments, the lab itself is a hack.
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Why do Biohacking?
Taking things apart and putting them back together helps you understand how they work. Biohackers argue this is true for biology as well as for motorbikes. Understanding how things work also invites us to remake them – in other words, to innovate.
So who benefits from innovation? Many biohackers want to democratize science so share their findings freely. At the same time hackerspaces are often seedbeds for commercial production.
Biohacking is also a social activity. Like community art or guerilla gardening, it gets people together to make things that use and improve their surroundings. But is biohacking really for anyone, or only those with time and education? If biohacking is not just cutting edge science, but also about baking rye bread and making yoghurt at home, are we all hackers?
Click here for a list of biohacking labs around the world. Click on the map and photos below to see the variety and breadth of the global DIY biology movement.[flickrset id=”72157632980848004″ thumbnail=”square” photos=”” overlay=”true” size=”medium”]
Hacking and Synthetic Biology
Hacking can be described as customizing the world with simple means. It’s often thought of in terms of computing and electronics, but the idea of hacking is now being applied to cells and organisms.
The new field of synthetic biology has been key to making this possible. Synthetic biologists see biology as something that can be engineered, and DNA as a code that can be programmed (or hacked). Scientists are working on customized cells to produce fuel or medicine, and pieces of DNA can even be ordered online.
The following are some examples of what you can do with biohacking. For concrete do-it-yourself recipes, click here.