Real biohacking

Biohazard sign

I have read an interesting blog post by Steven Novella about biohacking. I completely agree that most people that push biohacking are not doing anything, that would justify the use of the term. A new term should be used if you are doing something conceptually new. However, the use of the term biohacking and its relationship to DIY biology and diverse body modification movements has not settled yet.

The definition of biohacking as the "freedom to explore biology deeply" makes the term rather meaningless. Hacking as a term has always carried the notion (rightly or not) of doing something illegal or at least borderline legal. To follow this analogy, doping in sports could be considered biohacking (but not drinking coffee - notwithstanding the fact that coffee does fulfil the criteria of doping for some people). Other examples that I would call "true" biohacking would be the use of Crispr/Cas to modify your own DNA. Or developing medical drugs to treat diseases in your own garage.

The question is: does anybody do such things? The development of such techniques is highly regulated in both academic research and commercial enterprises and real genetic engineering carries real risks. Not surprisingly, law-enforcement officials are not very happy about still another subculture to watch for signs of bioterrorism. However, the tools are getting easier and easier to use and garage biotech is a real thing (at least Nature thought it is worth a News Feature). Already a while ago, I did listen to a talk by Thomas Landrain, one of the brains behind the La Paillasse lab (Thomas: you promised that the La Paillasse web pages would be translated into English!), which is a biotech lab that was started with zero money in a garage in a Paris suburb. They are doing quite interesting research (see e.g. this article about his take on DIY biology). There are also conferences about DIY biology: But when does DIY biology become biohacking? Modifying E. coli bacteria to produce erythropoietin and then purifying and injecting it into yourself to increase your sports performance would certainly qualify as biohacking. Imho that example would actually be feasible considering the state of the DIY biology technology...