Do-it-yourself biotech

When I was a wee young lad, I remember making crystal radios and small-scale explosives for fun. The new generation can do something even cooler now, though: how about isolating your very own stem cells, using relatively simple equipment. It’s fun, easy, and educational!

Step 3, “get a placenta”, does rather gloss over some of the practical difficulties, though, and does require planning about 9 months ahead.


  1. Interrobang says

    I note that the author of the piece assumes that the attending gynecologist for the “pregnant member of the family” (what a weird way of phrasing it) is male (“convince him to put the placenta into a sterile flask”). We do have grammatically-acceptable gender-neutral ways of phrasing these things, these days.

  2. MTran says

    Just for a moment there I read the heading as Do-it-yourself biotch. And wondered where PZ was going with this one since he seemed to be going the hip-hop route…

  3. says

    I’m not kidding: my highschool (note: yes, I said HIGHSCHOOL) biology science teacher brought his wife’s placenta into class–in a big plastic garbage bag! After all the students got a look at it, it got fixed in a big jar of formalin. This was back in the 1970s. I have a feeling people would have major kittens now if somebody did this.

  4. says

    “We do have grammatically-acceptable gender-neutral ways of phrasing these things, these days.”

    And I’m going to deliberately avoid all of them just to piss you off.

  5. says

    I have to admit I do love schadenfreude. Kent Hovind in jail is funny as hell. Creationist jackass. Gets his morals from the bible. THOU SHALL NOT PAY TAXES TO THE GOVERNMENT. lmao

  6. Apikoros says

    Sorry, Hans, what you’ve got there is a company that will sell you messenger RNA extracted from various human tissues. What we need is some human placenta with the stem cells still intact–that means not broken up into constituent molecules, and not even frozen.
    There are various human tissue networks that make freshly removed tissue available for research, but they do tend to ask uncomfortable questions such as “What are you going to do with this?” and “You’re not planning on putting this into people, right?”
    And that brings up the final problem: rather than mail-order some stranger’s placenta, I need mine, or that of a close relation. Mine is sadly long gone, so I’d better start being nice to my wife’s ob/gyn.

  7. Eirene says

    Darnit and here I used it to make delicious paté.

    Speaking of stem cells, I got a leaflet that told me I could put umbilical chord blood or the chord itself in storage for stem cell use for a mere €3k.

    Would that have been as useless as it comes across as being?

  8. YuppiTuna says

    Somehow, I think the gender specific pronoun is one of the least politically incorrect things about the sentence “convince him to put the placenta into a sterile flask”

  9. Carlie says

    Step 4 has now been changed to him/her.

    Now I’m so sad that the placentas I made were just thrown away!

  10. says

    > We do have grammatically-acceptable gender-neutral ways of phrasing these things, these days.

    We always have. It’s just that a few decades ago, people decided that it was wrong that the gender-neutral pronouns should be the same as the male pronouns. Unfortunately, grammar has not yet caught up with political correctness, and “he/him/his” are still valid singular gender-neutral pronouns.

    And why I’d be happy to see it change (we could use a separate set of pronouns for this), I’ve yet to see an alternative that’s anywhere near as elegant.

  11. Dunc says

    I wintermute! At last, someone else who knows that “he” (male pronoun) and “he” (neutral pronoun) are just homonyms!

    As for the DIY biotech – you laugh now, but just you wait 20 years or so until recombinant DNA technology becomes widely available and some geeky kid decides that computer viruses are for wusses.

  12. kahner says

    Sure, step 3: get a placenta sounds kinda tough, but step 2 is “Prepare”. I also think the “at home” should be qualified as “at home, if you happen to live in a medical or biology laboratory”. But in anycase I’m off to get a placenta.