Genetic Art – Featuring You!

I recently came across a website, DNA 11, whose catchphrase is There is Only One Original. They are, of course, referring to you your genetic make-up which the company collects and creates artwork out of. It sounds absurd but this is how it works.

DNA 11 sends you a mouth swab that you use to collect epithelial cells from the inside of your cheek. You then mail these back to the company and they conduct a gel electrophoresis run of your genes. The results of this (the black and white bands often seen on CSI and the like) are then photographed professionally and digitally coloured. The result is an abstract painting of whichever colours you want featuring you.

Its a pretty cool idea and I’d imagine I’d have a lot of fun explaining to people what the painting was all about. However, I had some reservations.

I’ve written about genetic privacy before and am aware of the risks of mailing some company my most personal information. If it is stored digitally on a server in the US it become open to the Patriot Act. If they keep the info and the company goes bankrupt then what happens to the genetic information.

I did a little digging around and it looks like DNA 11 is totally legit. First of all they don’t actually decode your genes, they just get a fancy picture of them. Its the same kind of picture that criminologists use to identify two people. Each picture is unique but you can’t tell what any of the lines actually translate to (hair colour, skin colour, etc.). They also guarantee that they will delete and destroy all of the information and samples that they get after they have finished your piece. I sent them an e-mail and they confirmed all of this for me.

They also do personalized finger prints and kisses!

Nerdy? Check. Conversation piece? Check. Beautiful? Check.

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Geoff is a 5th year student who studying a double major in Integrated Science (Evolutionary ecology, virology) and Political Science. He was the 'Wish' speaker at the 2008 Terry Talks and is passionate about university education, especially when it comes to interdisciplinary experiences. After graduation Geoff wants to find a job that allows him to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and share stories. If your savvy enough you can follow Geoff on Twitter - user: gcosteloe.