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PDX Quantified Self Message Board › The quest for the $500 home molecular biology laboratory v Medical Lab Observer

The quest for the $500 home molecular biology laboratory v Medical Lab Observer

Portland, OR
Post #: 6
Some serious win for DIY , via eBay purchases for most part.


I recently set out on a quest to see whether a non-specialist, $500 complete molecular biology laboratory was possible. This is not a completely novel idea. Numerous previous groups have published a number of aspects of a ”DIY” approach to molecular biology, usually aimed at teaching laboratories. These have included such things as making agarose gel boxes with graphite pencil lead as electrodes, using grocery store gelatin as a separation matrix, converting old dot-matrix printers and water baths to make thermocyclers, light-bulb driven thermocyclers, and methlyene blue as a non-toxic dye for direct visualization of DNA in gels. (For some recent examples, see references 1, 2, 3.) A recent issue of the popular magazine Wired covered the Open PCR project, which aims to bring a relatively inexpensive ($599) PCR machine into public domain use, along with such ancillary equipment as the ”Dremelfuge,” a dremel-powered centrifuge.4 However, none of these have overcome the need for some relatively expensive and specialized equipment to conduct real experiments of interest, and in many cases have required a beyond-common technical ability in building or modifying equipment. That this is a barrier to introducing students to a critical emerging field has been recognized by a number of groups looking to find lower-entry cost solutions suitable for educational applications.5

The challenge I set for myself had a number of criteria:

That a $500 capital equipment budget not be exceeded (Reagents and consumables were not expected to be included in this budget.)
That there be little or no requirement to build or adapt devices—i.e., that standard lab equipment be used wherever possible within budget constraints
That the final lab have the ability to run multiple sample types for a range of assays, with sensitivity and speed generally comparable to a “real” academic lab
That reagents and supplies used be safe for home use
That all equipment and reagents be obtained through channels available to the average person on the street—that is, I couldn’t make use of contacts in the field by calling them up and scavenging old bits of labware from under their sinks.


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