Bio-hacking: how far is too far?

The DIY science could revolutionise medicine, but where do we draw the line?

28 APRIL 2021



Super-smart humans: should we genetically engineer them? Are we cool with people biohacking DNA in their bedrooms? What about people seeking a human upgrade through tech implants - are we ok with that? Talk about biohacking, and you’re going to end up asking a lot of questions. Especially: how do you even define it?

“I would say that biohacking is a do-it-yourself way to try to change your biology,” says Dr Tamara Sunbul, who leads Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare’s work on informatics. This might mean altering your sleep pattern. Or body hacking yourself by implanting an RFID chip that turns your hand into a credit card. Given the range of activities it covers, it can be hard to wrestle with the ethics of biohacking - unless you’re specific. “I think that you need to break it up into the different types. That helps,” offers Dr Sunbul.

The most straight-forward is nutrigenomics - altering your diet to try to affect your genes. Some eating regimes limit food intake to supposedly biohack your body into regenerating cells, by mimicking what your body does when it’s fasting. Others identify the microbe composition in your gut (aka your microbiome) via stool samples. They then recommend a tailored nutrition plan that allegedly fights ageing and boosts your immune system.