the biohacker claims he’s the first person trying to modify his own genome with the groundbreaking gene-editing technology known as CRISPR. And he’s providing the world with the means to do it, too, by posting a “DIY Human CRISPR Guide” online and selling $20 DNA that promotes muscle growth.
But editing your DNA isn’t as simple as following step-by-step advice. Scientists say that injecting yourself with a gene for muscle growth, as Zayner’s done, won’t in fact pump up your arms. Zayner himself admits that his experiments over the last year haven’t visibly changed his body. There are safety risks, too, experts say: People could infect themselves, or induce an inflammatory reaction.
But to Zayner, whether or not the experiment actually works is besides the point. What he’s trying to demonstrate, Zayner told BuzzFeed News, is that cutting-edge biology tools like CRISPR should be available to people to do as they wish, and not be controlled by academics and pharmaceutical companies.
Another biohacker, Brian Hanley, popular for testing anti-age gene therapy on himself, commented Zayner’s kits with a post on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:
Yes, there is a long history of scientists and physicians experimenting on themselves. 15 Nobel prizewinners did it. Hundreds of documented cases of prominent scientists doing it. I am sure there are thousands more such experiments by scientists that are not documented. There have been no documented deaths of scientists by self-experiment since 1928. But it is one thing for someone who really understands what they are doing to perform such experiments, or for qualified people to assist another qualified person. It is quite another thing for Joe programmer biohacker-hopeful to do that without really understanding it because some guy sold him a kit.
The point is not if it’s legit or not, effective or not, legal or not. The point is that there is a growing community of humans that is experimenting, tinkering, and taking risks with their bodies, trying to achieve things that the mainstream audience considers horrifying, impossible, out of reach. This community doesn’t have much credibility today, just like IT security hackers didn’t have much credibility in the early days of the Internet. Today, hacking communities are recruiting pools by top military organizations in the world, and hacking conferences are a prime stage for the biggest software and hardware vendors on the market.
Lost in a sea of pseudo-scientists, impostors, scammers, and amateur wannabe, there are a few serious, determined, fearless explorers of the human body. They won’t look credible until they will.