Oligo Handling, Analysis, and Applications
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Your DNA as Personalized Art

A Different Perspective on Bands in a Gel

One day back in 2005, scientist and Bio-Rad DNA imaging software representative, Nazim Ahmed, was at home sharing a glass of wine with his friend Adrian Salamunovic, a marketing web consultant. Adrian saw a Bio-Rad brochure on Nazim’s table with a gel image containing stained DNA and thought it looked like art. As a creative endeavor Nazim and Adrian took a swab of their own DNA, and after creating one-of-a-kind DNA "fingerprints" in the lab, they turned the images into colorful art pieces printed on canvas and hung them on their walls. After some initial interest from friends and family, Adrian and Nazim decided to launch dna11.com and introduce the idea of DNA as art to the world. As of today they have sold thousands of pieces in over 50 countries and are committed to the concept of crossing art and science, while raising awareness about genomics to the general public in a creative way.

“IDT is a perfect cross between great products, quality, as well as amazing customer service. For custom oligos, they have been the best to deal with in the industry. We’ve never had any issue with quality or reliability. Their website is also extremely easy to use.”—Nazim Ahmed, Co-founder, DNA 11

Creating DNA Art

A personalized DNA portrait begins with a cheek swab that is transferred to an FTA® card, from which the company extracts ge­nomic DNA. DNA 11 then performs Random Amplification of Polymorphic DNA (RAPD), using 10mer standard desalt oligonucle­otide primers from IDT, to generate 8 sets of amplification products. The eight oligos that are used were originally chosen as arbitrary yet abundant sequences in the genome. Each oligo serves as both forward and reverse primer for an amplification reaction. Being so short they hybridize at multiple lo­cations within a given genome, generating a set of amplicons of various sizes. This set of amplification products differs between individuals due to the presence of SNPs and other sequence differences.


Figure 1. In the Lab. Lab Manager, Yvonne Cassidy electrophoreses amplification products from client DNA. An example of the resulting artwork hangs behind her on the wall.

Along with size markers in the outside lanes, the amplicon sets are separated on an aga­rose gel to create the personalized image (Figure 1). The company further colors the images to the customer’s specifications and can even print them on a variety of materi­als—canvas, metal, plastic, etc. (Figure 2).

Figure 2. DNA Meets Interior Design. DNA 11’s images can be sized and colored to the customer’s specifications and can even be printed on a variety of materials.

DNA Art Drives Donations

In addition to selling its personalized prod­ucts, the company has a strong charitable arm. DNA11 recruits celebrities to donate their DNA. The art DNA11 creates from celebrity DNA is then auctioned off, with all the proceeds going to the celebrity’s foun­dation or chosen charity (Figure 3). 

Figure 3. Celebrity DNA at Work. Elijah Wood of “Lord of the Rings” fame auctioned off art made from his DNA to raise money for The Art of Elysium.

Author: Ellen Prediger is Director of Scientific Communication at IDT.

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