Ever wonder whether your food is genetically modified? What type of timber is used for your new cabinet? Did you ever wish there was a way to find out? Biological research has developed a vast toolkit of methods to answer your questions. The centerpiece of all approaches is the utilization of the Polymerase Chain Reaction – nature’s way to replicate and analyze genetic material.
Although most of the methodology revolves around very basic techniques such as heating, cooling and precise measurement of sample sizes, equipment is rather expensive. We want to change that! We wish to make PCR accessible to hobbyists and educational institutions such as schools or learning centers.
How would we do that? The idea is to provide complete kits including all parts necessary for investigating the surrounding world. As the whole project is sketched out to help educational approaches, we put a lot of effort into educational material, providing easy access to a rather wide field of research.
The kit will be comprised of three individual devices: A thermocycler, as well as all chemicals and tools to carry out the actual polymerase chain reaction. In addition the kit will provide a gel electrophoresis chamber to prepare the PCR samples for analysis. For that purpose we are developing an easy to use UV gel documentation, including all solutions and fluorescent stains to illuminate, visualize and evaluate genetic material.
Amongst many more, the following questions can be answered using this method:
- What type of meat is in my food?
- Is my food genetically modified?
- What sex is my parrot?
- How is the water quality of a nearby stream?
- Is my cabinet made of tropical timber?
- Is my dog partly of a particular breed?
As we are following an open approach to hardware as well as soft- and firmware development, we are keeping the system open to collaborative ongoing redesign and improvement. We are hoping to take part in the creation of a collaborative platform to create large datasets which can be used to monitor biodiversity, geographical biological information or pollution. This does not only support scientists but also enables every user to compare their own results and open the field to anyone via apps, gamification concepts or the addition of new devices.