The concept of biohacking, or using technology and science to improve the human body and mind, has been around for many years. However, the term "biohacking" was not coined until the early 2000s, when it began to be used to describe a growing movement of DIY biologists and health enthusiasts who were experimenting with various methods to enhance their own biology. In recent years, biohacking has become more mainstream, with many people using technology and other methods to monitor and improve their health and performance. However, the practice of biohacking is still considered somewhat controversial, and its safety and effectiveness are not always well understood.
The term biohacking and the concept of biology “do it yourself” were already known in 1988. One of the loudest voices on the scene is Geoffrey Woo, CEO and co-founder of HVMN, a start-up company specializing in biohacking. Regardless of what may result from their actions, biohackers have expanded public education in their fields and have expressed legitimate concern about the exclusive nature of genetic research. One is that biohacking is something you do to biology, outside of yourself; you're going to change a cell; you're going to change an amoeba and make it glow in the dark. Grindhouse Wetware, a small but growing group of biohackers from cellars located in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, claims to be the first to implant such a device.
So, one cloudy morning in April, we found ourselves on a plane bound for the United States for the first of several road trips to meet the leaders of the biohacking community and ask them if they could help us. Based on these clandestine roots, sometimes disorganized and often misunderstood, biohacking has begun to become widespread in recent years. His apartment converted into a laboratory testified to this and to the innovative spirit that underpins biohacking. In that spirit, some garage biohackers are turning sensors and electronic devices into externally worn prototypes that they hope to eventually miniaturize and implant.
Drew Endy, professor of bioengineering at Stanford, who considers himself a biohacker, says: “I come from a tradition in which hacking is a positive term and means learning things by building, trying to create things and see what happens. Ron Shigeta runs Berkeley Biolabs, a biohacking site in Berkeley, California, where dozens of aspiring biologists meet frequently to hack. Aull, a superstar in the world of biohacking, rose to fame after creating her own genetic testing kit in the small room she lived in when she was a student in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Asprey, who has received attention on the Internet and at conferences, says he has used biohacking and new technical measurement tools, and the low-toxic coffee he produces (Bulletproof) to alter his cognition, weight and general health.
Leaving aside the academic world's more methodical approach, biohackers are moving faster and exploring areas that scientists might find unpublicable. While shredders that modify the body seek to implement cutting-edge technology through the kitchen cutting board, other biohackers are collaborating to build a better biological trap for mice, while others teach basic genomics in community biotechnology spaces.