A few months ago, while aimlessly browsing youtube videos, i came across this great channel The Thought Emporium . I was initially browsing for some SDR / Radio telescopy related stuff and this guy does some of it.
But while watching his other videos, i came across some biology stuff ( he does a lot of those, along with laser / quantum physics and everything in between )
What really got me hooked was a specific video of his. ( Justin ) is Lactose Intolerant. So he went about creating “cure” for his condition. He successfully performed “Gene Therapy” on himself by injecting plasmids ( Basically DNA ) via viruses as delivery mechanisms to his digestive tract which produce the enzyme ( Lactase) which in turn breaks down the primary sugar of milk / milk based food items ( Lactose )
I was really surprised that it was even possible for an individual to accomplish this. So, i decided to investigate further.
Easy way to learn molecular biology basics
I am a engineer by profession and a hacker / scientist by passion. Having no interest in learning anatomy i never considered picking up biology as a hobby, but i had no idea biology ( molecular biology ) would be so fun. So i decided on going through some online stuff. after looking at sheer overwhelming overload of information, i realized that i need something short, to the point resource which is easy to understand and is not a dry “textbook” which makes me sleep whenever i try to read it.
So i came across this book
The Manga Guide to molecular biology
Yep, you read it right. Manga. It’s a very basic guide to building blocks of molecular biology – woven into a story which while mediocre, keeps the flow and pace of information very natural.
DNA & RNA
From this book, i learned the basics of molecular biology – Basically there are 4 nucleotides – Adenine,Thymine,Guanine and Cytocine ( A,T,G,C ) in human DNA. Now due to the molecular structure of these nucleotides, A always bonds with T and G always bonds with C
Almost each cell in the body, contains a nucleus ( depending on the type of organism, and cell type nucleus might be present or absent ). This nucleus contains the DNA, which is a long chains of AT and GC pairs woven together in double helix pattern.
RNA is just a single strand as opposed to the double stranded DNA
Proteins are the building blocks of the body, everything in our body ( almost everything ) is made up of proteins. Skin, nails, tissues, Hormones, blood – everything is either a protein, or a combination of multiple types of proteins
Proteins are made up of amino acids, and there are a total of 21 known molecules, which combine in long chains to make up a single protein. The DNA, with its sequence of 3 base pairs ( called codons ) code for one molecule of building block of protein
As you can see from the above image, 3 Base pairs of DNA codes for a instruction of a single molecule of an amino acid( out of 20 possible), and these sequence of amino acids, in turn form long chains, which are proteins .
Out bodies are, in turn made up of Water, proteins and Carbs and lipids ( basically oily, fat-like substances )
So, to me it all looks very much like computers. The building blocks are binary ( AT might be thought as 1 , GC as 0). Now these 1’s and 0’s together form instructions which form protiens, which can be thought of as macros/function depending on the type of organism. now these functions combine together to form larger Routines ( Lets consider them as objects maybe ? – analogous to cells) which in turn makes up the entire program ( body ) work.
What really fascinates me is, a lot of these DNA sequences are shared between different organisms .
So essentially, what it means is the building blocks for all organisms are same. and what we can do, is pick-up/isolate traits/genetic makeup from one organism and plant it into other organism(okay its wayyy more complex than it sounds), and that is my friends – Bioengineering.
Over the next few articles, ill go into various concepts of bioengineering, equipment builds, and a “Hello World” of bioengineering. Yes, its a costly hobby, but its magical to see your experiments manifest in living organism.I will be majorly working with Plants & Microbes initially due to ethical reasons – At least till i have learned enough to not screw things up royally.
Here is a teaser of whats to come
- The hello World of biotech, Bacterial Transformation of E.Coli Bacteria using GFP Plasmid (Essentially, modifying the E.Coli bacteria with DNA from Jellyfish to produce green florescence)
- DIY Biolab – Making your own DIY-Biolab ( India specific version )
Happy (Bio) Hacking 🙂