Spreading Synthetic Biology

To reach people of all ages, we used a booth at the Hessentag, an annual public event in the federal state of Hesse. In 2015, approximately 780.000 people visited the location during its one-week opening. Beside a rich cultural program, like music concerts and parades, a significant part of the Hessentag is a state-wide exhibition where dozens of companies and organizations present their work. Educational as well as scientific institutions are also well presented during this event.

Our booth was located at the so called knowledge pavilion, where several universities had the possibility to show their scientific work on different fields of science. We saw this as a great opportunity to gain a first interest for our iGeneration-campaign. Therefore, we offered a broad variety of activities and information about biology. We isolated DNA out of paprika together with present kids only with items they could find in their own household. Meanwhile, we talked about synthetic biology with their parents and grandparents, and discussed their concerns about genetic engineering. As opposed to closed locations, like a school, we were able to get in contact with both, parents and children simultaneously, and to establish a more positive attitude towards genetic modified organisms and biotechnology.

Figure 1: Our booth was integrated into the pavilion of ProLOEWE.

DNA Extraction from Paprika

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the universal carrier of every living creature's genetic information. Here, you can see an instruction for its isolation in a few steps.

1. Mash half of a paprika with a pinch of salt.
Hint: By mashing, you break the paprika's cell walls. The added salt makes water leak out of the cells.

2. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a glass and add 15 mL dish detergent and a pinch of meat tenderizer. Shake the mixture and allow it to stand for 10 minutes.
Hint: DNA remains in the liquid, so you can get rid of cell debris by sieving. The dish detergent binds the cell membrane which consist of fat.

3. Pour the mixture into a high glass (similar to a test tube) and overlay it with alcohol (at least 70%, e.g. denatured alcohol).
Hint: DNA is soluble in water but not in alcohol. This way, you make it precipitate.

4. You can see the DNA in form of white threads. Wind it up on a toothpick.

Figure 2: Here, you can see a picture of the postcard we distributed to the participating children.

iGEM Marburg - ZSM Karl-von-Frisch-Straße 16, D - 35043 Marburg