Open-Sourcing DNA Damage Detection for Citizen Science
Citizen science is an exciting way for the general public to both participate in research and learn more about issues of interest. Participation in everything from global investigations to community-driven research can allow people to understand more about how science works and sometimes even make a difference. In an effort to provide information and promote research on a new ‘big picture’ concept that attempts to pull together all the dynamic molecular genetic details of cells - genomic integrity - Rachel Aronoff founded the public service association AGiR! and recently began projects to ‘open- source’ classic methods of DNA damage detection at the open public lab Hackuarium, which aims to democratise science for all.
To simplify classic methods to quantitate double-stranded DNA breaks in cells developed in the ‘80s, the ‘comet’ and ‘micronucleus assays, in order to use primarily ‘kitchen sink’ ingredients and provide the possibility for their general use is an important goal of this work. Ultimately, people would be encouraged to determine the baseline levels of micronuclei or comets seen in their own cheek cells, design a personalized protocol based on the open source guidelines, and measure effects of their chosen intervention (i.e. daily swimming, running, or chocolate, green tea or blueberry consumption). Ex situ experiments for risk analysis are also envisaged.
These protocols can provide an easily “workshop-able" way to teach people more about their own cells, while learning how many common activities and products can induce DNA damage. Additionally, development of a simple flow cell equipped with a mini electrophoresis rig for the comet cell assay are planned. If successful, however, and international networks of DIT (do-it-together) research groups start accumulating quantitative results using these assays, ‘big data' and security issues would also need to be to be addressed. Further info can be found at: