Make your own DNA

We love the idea of the Glowing Plant Project, which will teach you about synthetic biology by allowing you to do some. The group has a Kickstarter campaign that, if successful, will allow anybody to grow a glowing plant from jellyfish DNA and a mustard flower.

What's amazing is all the technology that already exists to do this. We have "gene printers" that can literally print out DNA, and a "gene gun" to shoot modified DNA right into the cells of the plant. The result? A mustard plant that glows green, just like a jellyfish. The jellyfish's green fluorescent proteins are used all the time in genomics, and are harmless. There have already been genetically engineered glowing green bunnies, kittens, and more.

The group hopes that this project will lead to DiY synbio kits, and will help everybody from kids to scientists learn more about one of the most important new fields in biology.

The team describes their project:

By backing this project you can help create the world’s first naturally glowing plant, inspire others to become interested in synthetic biology and receive some awesome rewards in the process.

Funds raised will be used to print the DNA sequences we have designed using Genome Compiler and to transform the plants by inserting these sequences into the plant and then growing the resultant plant in the lab.

Printing DNA costs a minimum of 25 cents per base pair and our sequences are about 10,000 base pairs long. We plan to print a number of sequences so that we can test the results of trying different promoters – this will allow us to optimize the result. We will be printing our DNA with Cambrian Genomics who have developed a revolutionary laser printing system that massively reduces the cost of DNA synthesis.

Transforming the plant will initially be done using the Agrobacterium method. Our printed DNA will be inserted into a special type of bacteria which can insert its DNA into the plant. Seeds of a flowering plant are then dipped into a solution containing the transformed bacteria. The bacteria then injects our DNA into the cell nucleus of the seeds which we can grow until they glow! You can see this process in action in our video.

Once we have proven the designs work we will then insert the same gene sequence into the plant using a gene gun. This is more complicated, as there's a risk the gene sequence gets scrambled, but the result will be unregulated by the USDA and thus suitable for release.

Funds raised will also be used to support our work to develop an open policy framework for DIY Bio work involving recombinant DNA. This framework will provide guidelines to help others who are inspired by this project navigate the regulatory and social challenges inherent in community based synthetic biology. The framework will include recommendations for what kinds of projects are safe for DIY Bio enthusiasts and recommendations for the processes which should be put in place (such as getting experts to review the plans).