Artwork By Sofia Cabral
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a superhero? Well, this dream might become a potential reality for you in the near future. Welcome to the world of biohacking
To start off, biohacking is kind of a DIY mentality to biology, where people attempt to alter themselves to improve their health or enhance their capabilities (AKA superpowers). Some consider meditation and intermittent fasting to be biohacking but the more dark/interesting types of biohacking emerge from a new technology called CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR, in essence, is just like the copy and paste tool that you use on your computer but for DNA. It targets a specific sequence of the human genome and either modifies, deletes, or inserts new sequences to change an organism’s DNA which can result in some very interesting outcomes.
One of the leaders of this edgy biohacking movement is Josiah Zayner who has quite the scientific pedigree. He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics, biochemistry and worked at NASA for 2 years as a research fellow. However, he left his job at NASA to follow his passion for biohacking and formed his own company called Odin where he sells gene engineering kits to whoever has a couple of nickels to rub together. Click here to check out his website. His kits are simple to use and the cheapest option only costs about $30. His goal with this company is to decentralize genetic engineering and give the average person the knowledge and resources to practice gene editing at home, or even on themselves. Josiah, being a huge fan of self-performing gene editing, has even shared videos of injecting himself with DNA encoded CRISPR, which in theory could make him stronger. After many videos were released of Josiah editing his own genes demonstrating whether it could make him stronger or even change his skin color he gained a large following of almost cult-like fans that hopped on the CRISPR train. Some of his followers have created glow-in-the-dark rats, attempted to create bioluminescent dalmatians, and much much more.
However, Josiah made a major mistake when he went to a conference where he live-streamed injecting himself with CRISPR. This resulted in the FDA getting involved and a warning that stated for safety reasons it’s illegal to sell gene therapy products for use on humans. Germany followed the FDA’s lead and banned the practice as well. However, oddly enough, Josiah continues to sell his kits without any legal repercussions thus far.
Many believe Josiah is opening Pandora’s box by giving the masses access to gene editing equipment. They believe that people, in general, aren’t educated enough on how to use the equipment provided in Josiah’s kits and that they may hurt themselves unintentionally while using it. However, Josiah is more worried about what will happen if this technology isn’t brought to the masses because his kits could aid people in finding cures for diseases and give people the capability to solve their own genetic problems.
What do you think? Would you want to edit your genes? Maybe become the first bioluminescent human or just be yoked like Josiah? Comment Below.
Zhang, S. (2018, February 21). Biohacker Regrets Injecting Himself With CRISPR on Live-Stream. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/biohacking-stunts-crispr/553511/
Editor2. (2017, December 11). Biohacker CRISPRs himself in attempt to get bigger muscles. GMWATCH. https://www.gmwatch.org/en/main-menu/news/latest-news/18026-biohacker-crisprs-himself-in-attempt-to-get-bigger-muscles
Meet the biohacker using CRISPR to teach everyone gene editing. (2019, January 24). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vmHweDC5SY
CRISPR Explained. (2018, July 24). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKbrwPL3wXE