Wednesday, May 2, 2018

We Edited DNA in our Kitchen. You Can Too!

When our children expressed an interest in DNA and genetic engineering, we wanted to encourage their curiosity and interest. We went looking for books we could read, videos we could watch, etc.

However as we all now live in the future, there is a much more direct way to inspire their interest in genetic engineering: we could engineer some genes, in our kitchen. Of course.

We bought a kit from The Odin, a company which aims to make biological engineering and genetic design accessible and available to everyone. The kit contains all of the supplies and chemicals needed to modify yeast DNA: Genetically Engineer Any Brewing or Baking Yeast to Fluoresce

Altogether the exercise took about a week, most of which was spent allowing the yeast time to grow and multiply. If we had an incubator we could have sped this up, but an incubator is not essential for a successful experiment.

The first step was to create a healthy colony of unmodified yeast. We mixed a yeast growth medium called YPD, rehydrated the dried yeast, and spread everything onto petri dishes. The yellowish gel on the bottom of the dish is the growth medium, the droplets are the rehydrated yeast.

After several days to grow, we could then take up a bit of yeast into a small tube. We would be modifying the DNA of the yeast in the tube, and would later be able to compare it to our unmodified yeast.

The next steps are the amazing stuff.

We used a pipette to add a tiny amount of transformation matrix. This mixture prepares the yeast cells to take in new DNA.

We then used the pipette to add the GFP Expression Plasmid. GFP is Green Fluorescent Protein, and is what makes jellyfish glow in blue light. The GFP Expression Plasmid bundles the DNA segment for the jellyfish gene together with CRISPR as the delivery mechanism.

Swirling the yeast together with the plasmid is how we edited DNA in our kitchen. Over several hours, CRISPR transferred the new gene into the yeast cells in the tube. We incubated the tube for a day, then spread it onto a fresh petri dish to spend a few more days growing.

Voila: shining a blue light on the original dish of unmodified yeast versus the dish with our genetically engineered strain, you can see the difference. Our modified yeast glows a soft green. This is the Green Fluorescent Protein which our modified yeast produces.

This wasn’t a difficult experiment to perform, every step was straightforward and the instructions were quite clear. The kids got a great deal out of it, and are enthused about learning more.

We genetically engineered yeast in our kitchen. You can too!
Genetically Engineer Any Brewing or Baking Yeast to Fluoresce