What is genetic biohacking?

Genetic biohacking is the practice of using biotechnology to modify an individual's biological traits, characteristics, or abilities. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as gene editing or gene therapy. The goal of genetic biohacking is to improve the human body or mind, or to enhance certain abilities or traits. This is often done with the aim of improving health, increasing intelligence, or enhancing physical or mental abilities. It is a controversial practice, and its long-term effects are not yet fully understood.


Biohacking can be described as “DIY biology” and can range from small changes in diet and lifestyle to very extreme self-experimentation. The motivations of biohackers are diverse. CRISPR (acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a tool for hacking bacterial genes. Therefore, we can say that these bacteria are the original biohackers.

They use it as a tool to protect themselves from the reinvasion of bacteriophages, similar to the adaptive immunity of our immune system. Bacteria's genetic hacking tool uses gRNA and the Cas9 enzyme. While gRNA binds to target DNA, Cas9 cuts target DNA to disable it. Now, scientists are exploiting it as a way to link specific DNA targets together and then replace them with DNA that produces the desired effect.

For example, CRISPR can correct physiological abnormalities caused by genetic mutations or defective genes. The specific risks (and potential benefits) of genetic biohacking involving humans will depend on the context of its use. The democratization of genetic biohacking aggravates these public health risks, since many experiments use easy-to-obtain materials and equipment purchased from companies that are dedicated to the DIY market or that are provided free of charge by other biohackers. These policies include restrictions on human experimentation, one of the riskiest forms of genetic biohacking with the greatest possible negative consequences for public health.

There are many reasons to have trouble sleeping, and you can use your genetic data to get an idea of where to start with sleep biohacking. Just as the popularization of computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to computer piracy, the recent accessibility and affordability of relatively easy (and widely promoted) genome-editing technologies and resources has sparked interest in genetic “biohacking”, molecular genetics experiments conducted outside institutional laboratories by people who may have little formal scientific training. The motivations of these genetic biohackers, some of whom lack formal training in biology, are diverse and often complex. Therefore, FDA participation can help realize the promise of genetic biohacking by directing biohacking efforts toward interventions that live up to communities' hopes.

Similarly, public regulators, such as the FDA, would benefit from collaborating with stakeholders to better understand genetic biohacking activities, the perspectives of their participants, and the potential for self-government of biohacking communities, just as they already do with the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, private government efforts by community laboratories only weakly reach genetic biohacking communities that focus on human experimentation or in places where community laboratories are absent. Under many circumstances, products used by genetic biohackers, such as biological raw materials, traditional drugs and homemade CRISPR kits, are, by law, drugs regulated by the FDA. Thanks to its long-standing role in evaluating drugs and biological products, the FDA is the government regulatory agency equipped with the expertise needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of genetic biohacking.

In addition to these legal mechanisms, some biohacking communities have adopted their own ethical restrictions that, even if they do not intend to do so, could indirectly prevent damage to public health caused by genetic biohacking. Unlike some European countries, the United States does not prohibit genome editing done outside authorized laboratories, although it is not unlikely that such a ban will be proposed if it is discovered (as was the case with He) that some genetic biohackers have crossed the generally observed lines of ethics or safety. However, the regulation of genetic biohacking has received much less attention, although, like traditional scientific research, it is likely to produce a number of innovations and, at the same time, pose a series of risks to public health. However, genetic biohacking is especially easy, affordable, and a particularly popular and promising form of home science that poses unclear but potentially serious or far-reaching risks.

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Chelsea Waldren
Chelsea Waldren

Evil beer ninja. Incurable internet aficionado. Twitter scholar. Extreme music buff. Award-winning zombie guru.

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