Blood genotyping is one type of DNA test this miniature lab can perform as entrepreneurs work to take DNA testing out of medical laboratories and into other settings
It had to happen! There’s now a product designed to allow individuals to perform “do-it-yourself” DNA testing. Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers will be interested to learn that—for less than $800—they can acquire their own home set-up, which includes a PCR thermocycler, a centrifuge, a gel electrophoresis box, and a power supply with blue LED transillumination.
This new, compact, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis product was developed to give individuals who want to work with DNA a fun and easy way to explore their genetic make-up.
It was developed by Bento Bioworks, a company based in London, England, and is described as a do-it-yourself DNA analysis kit called Bento Lab. The device is about the size of a laptop computer and may be used anywhere to conduct a variety of DNA experiments.
Bento Lab allows people to conduct simple DNA tests from samples obtained from saliva or hair follicles. Animal tissue, food, and drink samples may also be evaluated with the unit.
To perform an experiment, the user simply places a sample into a centrifuge located in the middle of the device. Bento Lab then extracts the DNA for analysis and a thermocycler targets a specific portion of the DNA and copies it. A gel unit then portrays the DNA to enable the user to interpret the results.
Bento Bioworks created Bento Lab so that anyone with interest in DNA sequencing or biotechnology can complete their own genetic experiments. (Video copyright: Bento Bioworks.)
Do-It-Yourself Lab Performs Tests at a Molecular Level
With Bento Lab, people can perform uncomplicated DNA tests to delve into blood genotyping. The device allows users to test for variations of genes to discover information such as:
• the detection capability of bitter flavors by the taste buds; and
• whether or not a person is built for endurance by examining the “athlete” gene.
People can also test food and drinks at a molecular level and determine such interesting facts as the precise contents of meat and the identity of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Beer and wine can also be examined for bacteria that may cause spoilage.
Portable Lab Affordable and Highly Functional
Bento Lab also allows people to probe biodiversity and perform such tasks as:
• extracting DNA from fossils;
• determining the gender of a bird from a feather or blood droplet; and
• identifying species with DNA barcoding.
DNA testing equipment is typically too cost prohibitive for the average person to purchase, but the price for the Bento Lab is only $793. For that amount, buyers will receive:
• the Bento Lab DNA laboratory;
• a power cable;
• gel electrophoresis unit;
• blue-light transilluminator; and
• an instruction handbook.
This configuration is intended for those with DNA testing knowledge who already have access to basic necessities like reagents and pipettes. An add-on starter kit is available for an additional $215 and is intended for newcomers to the world of DNA testing. The add-on starter kit contains:
• reagents for 15 experiments;
• cotton swabs;
• a laboratory pipette;
• two boxes of pipette tips; and
• an instruction booklet.
In addition, individuals who purchase Bento Lab have access to a learning community and a support team for assistance and questions. The dimensions of Bento Lab are approximately 13”L x 8.5”W x 3.25”H and it weighs just over 11 lbs. The device is safe to use as long as the tester wears gloves and follows the instructions. The results of the experiments are dependent on the accuracy of the reagents used for testing.
Currently Bento Lab is only available for sale to persons living in the United Kingdom, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not involved in the company’s development.
Genome Research for the Masses
The development process for Bento Lab began in 2013 and was first displayed at MIT’s iGEM competition that year. In 2014, the product gained further recognition by winning the London Entrepreneur’s Challenge. In September 2015, 20 Bento Lab units were assembled and sent to beta testers all over the world. The device is expected to be ready to ship to consumers by the end of 2016.
The project was started by six scientists, engineers, designers, and educators to help make biology—especially genome research—affordable and accessible for the masses. A successful Kickstarter campaign was initiated for funding. The funds raised will go towards the manufacturing of Bento Lab, safety testing, and materials.
The target audience for Bento Lab include professionals, students, and researchers, as well as anyone who has a general interest in DNA testing. Technological advances in DNA sequencing and information technology (IT) are making it possible for entrepreneurs to engineer low-cost devices that deliver acceptable quality. Further developments in technology will increase the number of affordable, easy-to-use diagnostic tools made available to the public and clinical laboratories.