News of the Weird January 24 2009

LEAD STORY: “Genetic modification” sounds like frighteningly complicated lab work, but amateurs are routinely doing it in garages and dining rooms across the country, according to a December Associated Press report. Hobbyists (some terming themselves “biohackers”) are busy creating new life forms and someday, observers say, may turn up a cure for cancer or an accidental environmental catastrophe. The community lab DIYbio in Cambridge, Mass., has patrons who typically work on vaccines and biofuels, but might also whimsically create tattoos that glow. One amateur bought jellyfish DNA containing a green fluorescent protein (for about $100), and built a DNA analyzer (less than $25) so she could alter yogurt bacteria to glow green when it detects melamine (the substance recently discovered in deadly Chinese baby formula and pet food).

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