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24C3 Hacking DNA - A Lecture Answered

Drew Endy, of MIT's Biological Engineering department, gives a lecture on hacking the only thing that is (for now) un-hackable: Us.

The talk's all about the frontier on Biological Engineering, in particular DNA programming.
Essentially, they're starting to develop abstraction levels for DNA programming, building modular components analogous to those used by mechanical or electrical engineers. Endy speculates that eventually, this will develop into a viable, hackable, source for materials and components that could be used by everyday hackers.

I found this incredible, but mostly awesome! What do you think?



7 years ago

I got a degree in hacking DNA. It was a Ph.D.


11 years ago

Yes, really fascinating stuff. Check out what these kids in the iGEM competition are up to. iGEM stands for the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, and is a essentially just a bunch of undergrad teams from around the world "hacking biology".

Amazingly, iGEM has been one of the major drivers in this field - that 's how new the field is, and how accessible it is to just about anyone to tinker with the basic building blocks of life!

I actually worked on a little synthetic biology project at Harvard, just before moving out here. We were designing a binary counter that would store the current state of the counter in the DNA itself, so you could theoretically release cells with this counter into the environment, they would monitor how often they encountered the triggering condition, and then you could collect them some time later and read out the counter by sequencing.

We only managed to get it up to a half-bit counter by the time I left - heh! :-D

(For the initiated - we were designing the equivalent of a ripple counter using master-slave flip-flops, but we only made it to the first "flip". The design was fully extendable though.)


11 years ago

I used to go kiting with Drew when I was in Boston! In fact, he's even featured in the November 2007 issue of Kiteboarding.

Drew was once giving his "stump lecture" on DNA hacking, and it was obvious the audience just wasn't getting it. So, he brought up a web browser, downloaded the genome for small pox, and then started searching for used DNA synthesizers. There was a collective gasp as the crowd finally realized what he was saying.