Molecular biologist D Barry Starr runs the Tech Museum of Innovation at Stanford University, a hands-on museum for all ages. Starr explains how to extract your own DNA.
1. Gather your cells
Slosh 10ml of a sports drink around in your mouth for one to two minutes, scraping your cheeks and tongue with your teeth to get as many of your cells as possible to mix with the drink.
2. Crack them open
Pour the drink you gargled into a small glass. Add some washing-up liquid. The soap helps to pop open the cells cleanly — they have greasy membranes that stick to the DNA inside.
3. Layer your DNA
Use an eyedropper to layer rubbing alcohol carefully on top of the soap mix. Tilt the glass as if you’re pouring beer. You’ll get a clear layer on top and a scum layer below. Leave it standing.
4. Scoop it out
After a few minutes, your DNA will form a webby precipitate that you can scoop up with a glass rod and see — fuzzily — under a normal microscope; or send it off to a sequencing company.
5. Store it and repeat
Kept in rubbing alcohol in the freezer, the DNA “will last for 1,000 years,” says Starr. Try fruit, meat or vegetables: “Just put it into a Ziploc bag, pour in some sports drink and go from there.”