Monday, March 17, 2008

Shrinky Dinks All Grown Up

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? Chances are, if you're around my age or have a child around my age, you do. We loved them when I was a kid; we had the kits, of course, not the newfangled Shrinky Dinks for ink jet printers and other fancy stuff.

Little would I have ever thought that I'd run across Shrinky Dinks again, outside of crafts with my niece. But Michelle Kkine and her students, of University of California, Merced, have continued with their DIY biotech projects, using their imagination and the toy isle to use Shrinky Dinks to create tiny rubber plates of cell wells that can nestle embryoid bodies and allow for rapid growth medium change with minimum hassle. So it's cheap, it's fast, it's easier than before - it's kind of hard to find a downside. They published their results in Journal of Visualized Experiments, which gives you a detailed video how-to, as well as written protocols for reproducung the stem cell growth yourself. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to get that particular video embedded in our site, but it's definitely worth the click-through to watch if you find this sort of thing interesting.

And of course, we have to consider the ethical implications of this. First and foremost is the simple fact that the DIY Biotech movement is growing, and will continue to grow, and become easier for the home enthusiast to pursue and do outside of a laboratory (especially with video guides), and then the more abstract concept of video documentation in general. Given the scandals that continue to rock the biotech world, including the latest from South Korea, I wonder what kind of result it would have to require video documentation as part of any journal submission.

It's interesting - I think most people are going to be more panicked by the idea of people culturing mediums in their bathroom. In a lot of ways, it's the start of the ultimate doomsday scenario. Me, I find the idea of using technology to enforce research integrity much, much more interesting.


SabrinaW said...

OMG SHRINKY-DINKS!!! I had a Rainbow Brite set!

*cough* Yes, a very profound issue now that people are bringing biotech home. My hope is that we will really just need to worry about the fraction of the population that a) cares, b) understands enough science to do it, and c) doesn't think about the ethical implications of their projects.

I admit, when my colleagues have daughters old enough for home science kits, I'm going to be sorely tempted to get them something in this vein... or maybe I'll just stick to the microscope set with the brine shrimp.

Kelly Hills said...

Sorely tempted? Heck, over at the University of Washington medical bookstore, you've been able to get DNA kits "for onions" and other things for years now - and I've got a couple laying around here just for the hell of it - ahem, I mean, for my niece when she's old enough.

But I've been a fan of DIY biotech for a while; basically since I realized that if I wanted to, I could probably grow/create a bunch of stuff in my bathtub. I'll leave out what I first realized I could do this with, since I like having a non-FBI invaded home. ;-)