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Ancient toy inspires tool for state-of-the-art science

A 5,000-year-old toy still enjoyed by kids today has inspired an inexpensive, hand-powered scientific tool that could not only impact how field biologists conduct their research but also allow high-school students and others with limited resources to realize their own state-of-the-art experiments. The device, a portable centrifuge for preparing scientific samples including DNA, is reported in a new paper. The research team demonstrated the device, dubbed the 3D-Fuge because it is created through 3D printing, in two separate applications. In a rainforest in Peru the 3D-Fuge was an integral part of a "lab in a backpack" used to identify four previously-unknown plants and insects by sequencing their DNA. Back in the United States, a slightly different design enabled a new approach to creating living bacterial sensors for the potential detection of disease. To better share the work, the team has posted the 3D-Fuge designs, videos, and photos online available to anyone.

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