Extract Your Own DNA in Three Easy Steps

By Veronique Greenwood | March 6, 2012 12:54 pm

As growing numbers of DIY “biohackers” can attest, extracting DNA from cells is an easy process. And you don’t need anything special to do it: various household products, like soap and isopropyl alcohol, have the chemical properties required.  For NOVA’s upcoming program “Cracking Your Genetic Code,” PBS has made a short promotional video demonstrating how you can draw your DNA out from a sample of cheek cells, and, with the help of a little food coloring, actually see it yourself.

The three steps are pretty much exactly what scientists do when extracting DNA in the lab. First, you collect cells in salt water, which is similar to buffer solutions used in labs. Then, break them open with soap (in the lab, a detergent like Triton-X), which disturbs the molecules of the cell and nuclear membranes so the DNA can leak out. Lastly, use alcohol to separate the DNA from the salt water: Once in the alcohol, which is less polar than water, the DNA will form clumps and precipitate out, becoming visible as clusters of white strings.

The video is a neat reminder that what happens in labs isn’t magic: it’s just basic chemistry.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World
  • Rob

    First steps on the road to answering the eternal question that guys have. ” Which of my kids are mine”.

  • Teri Sims

    Cool! My son and I may try this!!

  • Federico Gil

    lol Oh My God! Are you serious?? This is real, isn’t it? I can’t believe that people pay a lot of money for an electrophoresis with this basic method.. Just kidding, but yeah! I just am in shock because of the fact of how simple it looked and we could see DNA, which is something not easy to stract and sometimes you need laboratory tests and stuff like that.

  • Daiver Fonseca

    Es tan simple este método, pero es lo mismo que aprendimos en la materia de Biología Molecular solo que más simple; el uso de solución salina, alcohol y detergente, y la diferencia es que en el laboratorio lo hacíamos con sangre aquí se hace con saliva

  • Geronimo

    WoW! I must at least try to do it!!! 😀


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