OpenPCR Machine Makes Your Basement A Crime Lab

You’ve heard of the CSI effect, right? It’s this wacky “syndrome” whereby we’ve watched so much CSI Miami and Law and Order that we can’t fully put our weight behind a verdict without some solid DNA evidence. I guess it’s easy to forget that we had an entire legal system sans DNA for quite a while. In any case, we’ve apparently got an itch to be a bunch of white-coated forensic scientists, which is why we’re so lucky that this crazy, and also beautiful, machine exists in the world.

It’s called OpenPCR, and it’ll make science-style DIYers drool. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, and it’s a crucial tool for just about any type of modern molecular biology. The way it works is by amplifying a specific region of a super teency-weency strain of DNA, and after that I kind of got lost in the biological jargon, but it’s all explained here.

With OpenPCR, you can do two different types of tests: DNA Sequencing and DNA Barcoding. Sequencing is where you use the PCR machine to check out some of your own genome, while Barcoding is checking out what kind of species a certain bit of DNA belongs to. If you have yet to be convinced, just check out how these two girls used DNA Barcoding to uncover a New York City scandal (hint: 2 out of 4 Sushi restaurants and 6 out of 10 grocery stores were selling mislabeled fish.)

For $599, you’ll get all the parts to the machine, instructions to set it up, and 16 PCR samples — the way by which you target certain regions of the DNA. Features include a heated lid that eliminates condensation, 2-degree per second ramp time (Centigrade), and compatibility with Mac and PC.