Biohacking : Introduction, Types Career & Job Prospects
Have you ever heard anything about Do-It-Yourself biology? DIY comprises as one of the types of Biohacking which offers freedom to individuals known as biohackers to endeavor with and exploit biology in a progressive manner. Biohacking is the term which can be defined as the freedom to explore biology. If someone wants to call himself as a biologist and interested in biohacking where he changes a biological cell or makes himself capable of gaining control over systems in the body he will be said to performing the art of Biohacking. Biohackers are involved in open – source biology asserting. They perform the art of changing the environment inside or outside the human body to hold control over its upgrading mind and eventually life.
Biohacking may involve making little changes in diet or lifestyle, improvising health and wellbeing customizing according to personal needs. It can certainly widen the domain where human bodies can be altered not only with the repair as a target but to enhance the capabilities of the human body.
Biohacking is extending its arms steadily!
Does it sound provocative to incorporate gadgets inside the body parts and thus behaving like a “cyborg”?
a. What is a “cyborg”?
Cyborg may be defined as a fictional or hypothetical individual who is capable to show superpowers by means of extending abilities beyond normal human limitations. It is done by integrating artificial components that are controlled by feedback which works in a circuit or loop. Imagine combining human bodies with a combination of implants, gadgets or injections which can be incorporated in the body to transform the body into a “cyborg”. – Biohacking.
b. Hearing colors is an option for color blinds
This can be contemplated as an exciting achievement to color blind people if they are willing to turn into “Cyborgs”. They can be equipped with electronic eyes which help in perceiving the colors as sounds turning them into hearing the colors rather than seeing them. ‘Neil Harbisson’ who is the world’s first human cyborg and the founder of Cyborg Foundation as well finds life to be more thrilling by creating applications for human bodies rather than the mobile phones. This man was born with achromatopsia, a rare and extreme type of color blindness. He developed a third eye in the form of a mechanical device which has been implanted in his skull and aids him in hearing images.
c. Sensing the earthquake is possible
Another example of “cyborg” could be Ms. Moon Ribas, a Spanish choreographer who has got a sensor implanted in her left arm. This sensor vibrates on detecting the earthquake.
d. Doctor at home!
Blood testing can be done by implants which are still being worked upon by the researchers of Switzerland. This chargeable implantable device having sensors and a radio transmitter is capable of monitoring glucose and ATP in the human body and transmitting the data to the patch that can be fixed externally to the body. Further analysis could be obtained by Doctors by sharing the data through a cellular network. Isn’t it fascinating to reduce the number of regular checkups for people suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes that needs to visit doctors so often?
e. The body will sense the direction you are going!
Another proposed implantable device from Cyborg Nest, a company based in London, United Kingdom has been named as ‘North sense’ which can be implanted on the surface of the skin in the cyborgs. This device can amusingly sense and vibrates when the wearer moves towards the magnetic north.
f. Bio magnets: magnets at fingertips!
Via Biohacking – Biohackers are implanting bio magnets into fingertips which can enable them in increased sensory amplification. Though it may sound like sensory fiction but with theses magnetic fingers one can sense the invisible things or pick up the tiny metal objects just like any factious superhero from a thriller. Amusingly to characterize the nature of the object is on your fingertips. For people working in electronics, it can be proved as a kind of boon where they can easily differentiate between dead and live wires. One of the open-source groups like Grindhouse Wetware, an open-source biotechnology start-up situated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is working on the Bottlenose, a device which may fit over the fingers and excite the senses.
g. Unlocking the soft wares in a new way!
Other types of NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID (Radio-frequency distribution) implants are available and functional among ‘cyborgs’ which can be seen as replacements of the chips for keys and passwords or even swap the identification of an individual. What more exciting one can expect than to unlock his vehicles, phones, laptops or security lockers or even doors by just waving his hand.
h. Rhyming with the body!
Have you ever imagined of placing a device which may notice your body rhythms or even measuring body temperatures and relaying this information for any sort of medical assistance? This unique ‘circadia’ has been actually implanted by Tim Canon, who is the co-founder of Grindhouse Wetware.
i. Shine with Bioluminescence!
It’s time to glow with implants like “Day-Glo”, another bio-hack which has been developed by “Grindhouse Wetware”. The implants are fixed with LEDs which imitate bioluminescence.
Nutrigenomics: Biohacking for the health-conscious people!
Interaction of food with genes can be manipulated by this type of biohacking. How different nutrients are going to affect the health of an individual can be optimized by mapping the genetic expression. Undoubtedly genes determine the function biologically; nutrition can alter the magnitude of gene expression. Along with with it other factors like stress, weight or exercise also affects how a body contributes to food. How about switching up the nutrition in an appropriate way to obtain the optimal results where an individual can reach the potential recognized by his genetic makeup. Biohacking allows it by incorporating self-experimentation to an extent where one can explore the different ways by which nutrients affect the thinking and behavior. Thus Nutrigenomics can assist humans to live a healthier life. Decreasing risk of getting depression, extra weight or chances of diseases besides optimizing blood pressure or gut bacteria comes under biohacking domain.
How it is done?
Biohacking can contribute by constructing the products which assist the natural biological function by steering the biochemical effects of oxidative stress leading into aging. Upregulating the genes to produce antioxidants, prevent organelle deterioration like mitochondria or enhance the gut ability to fight bacteria can be inculcated into the biohacking.
Explore Nutrition habits!
Changing sugar habits, consuming more healthy fats or non-starchy foods, figuring out the elimination diet for self-comprises the biohacking. Ensuring daily diet consists of less processed food and more of water can be included as part of Biohacking the body.
How much you sleep?
Tuning your sleep hours and patterns can be part of biohacking. The body can be bio hacked by veering feeding habits.
Get closer to nature!
If you are counting doing yoga or exercise under the daily routine regime, try it doing in the lap of nature as it has proven to boost the potentials than doing inside the closed rooms or backyards.
DIY Biology: Cultivating Innovations
It is a kind of biohacking displayed by people experienced in scientific fields. These people suggest various ways to assist non – experts or hobbyists to conduct self – experiments out of the regular experimental domains in labs, garages, closets or kitchens This has come up with advanced life science solutions and exhibiting response to the economy as well. Initiated by Rob Carlson, a physics Ph.D. student in 1996, DIY bio is an extensively intensifying socio-technological movement which offers opportunities to biohackers to study and experiment the biological processes by following the protocols suggested by professionals which remain usually online. According to reported data in US alone DIY bio spaces are over fifty in number having approximately 30,000 biohackers and other like-minded individuals to present their unprecedented ideas.
How safe is to play with biology?
Biohacking opens up the safety concerns for the society like bioethics should be taken into consideration while it is being performed. Modified organisms through different ways may leave bioethics in question where few indignant groups of people may exploit the open-source nature of biohacking to develop biological weapons. Few Environmental organizations are also opposing DIY. Absolutely innovation and economic growth offered by DIY should be aligned by the safety of Biohacking to prevent the wrong consequences to turn up.
Though biohacking can show novel aspects in the health and medicine, a critical eye should be placed on the precarious outcomes of biohacking as it may involve shoving the body to adapt to new limits or utilizing chemical and technological augmentations to which body may respond in an unsafe manner.
Certainly, DIY bio or Nutrigenomics offers a glimpse of positive trends, that every individual has the ability to bring the best out of biology and empowers the world with the hope of reflecting enhancements in day to day life.
It is quite obvious that Biohacking and its applications have very much fascinated you by now, and you must be feeling enthusiastic to obtain or generate a biohack. Have a little patience as most of the universities or institutes yet do not have Biohacking as one of the courses. Then, how to be a Biohacker? It is basically an emerging technique, so one of the best options is to self-learn after getting associated with the researchers already involved in this process. There exists a lot of academies and online courses which may be of your help.
- BioHack Academy: Here, one can design, build, use and share his own bio lab. Each edition connects passionate groups around the world. They have several partners from technologically sound countries viz. USA, South Korea, Japan, and Amsterdam. Like the one from Amsterdam provides a 10-week course, after completing which one is capable to grow his own fuel, food, filaments, pharmaceuticals, fragrances, fungi and much more funky bio stuff at home. They emphasize on motivating and teaching on how to join the bio revolution. Biohacking can make you a researcher owning a lab using a local maker space or Fablaband working with theoretically anything viz. microorganisms, 3D design, digital fabrication, programming, electronics, bio-pigments, bio-textiles, etc.
- People: Try to look for a community of people with shared interests via seminars, workshops, classes. E.g. Biosummit that has been designed specifically for DIYbio.
- Easily available inputs: Kits, guides, research papers, media, podcasts (The Quantified Body), books, blogs (Tim Ferriss – the 4-Hour Work Week), etc.
Biohackers can get opportunities in the form of Freelance projects. This is especially a good option for all those young minds who have a lot of ideas but no laboratory or guidance to explore. Biohacking requires minimum interference from a senior and gives you the option to be involved in active research, without looking for already existing support data. As far as market jobs are concerned since the field is still growing, we can not find quite a lot of jobs until it gets more mainstream. However, jobs can be found in startups or companies specifically designed for biohacking. One such position which is regularly offered by this market is being a Trainee – Content Marketing. This not only gives you exposure but also stimulates your neural cells to look for ideas for your own startups and become an entrepreneur. Along with a fixed salary, you are also offered a share in equity and profits. Since the field is still emerging, a lot of ideas have not been tried yet and hence left in your plate.
Biohacking is providing a platform not only to become an independent researcher but also finding unusual routes to create job opportunities. Let us take a few examples:
- Earlham Institute has played an influential role in the development of the MinION, the world’s smallest, most portable and soon-to-be most important genome sequencing platform. Their plan is to create a world where even school children can sequence different species as a part of their curriculum and get direct scientific attribution. This will not only give a sense of responsibility but also keeps the scope for improving the gene pool.
- Human Body Designers: Yes you heard it right. Human Body Designer will be someone who can combine bioengineering with design skills. This will solve the problem of human organ trafficking. It will also create a better version of cosmetic surgeries. They aim at creating the organ from a patient’s own cells, leaving behind the little risk of immune rejection.
- Zoologists will be able to manage the reintegration of a species into the wild and judge any ecological impacts of the species’ behavior and survival.
- Designing the proteins
- Biohacking is also working on lifestyle. So, it is believed to have a positive impact on human health as well.
- Personal microbiome generation is also under study and is hopeful to give an idea to cultivate person-specific microbiota in his own body.
To push the boundaries of our modern world towards improvement and to bridge the gap between humans and computers, the art and science of biohacking are expanding. It is predictable that technology will inculcate inside the humans apart from around them. So although extending human life beyond a limit is inexorable, enjoying longevity is possible. Biohacking the lifespan can be an entrancing option to biohackers or who should better be known as Bio enthusiasts.
Whether it is about discovering and implanting the contact lenses with cameras or language translator earbuds or making more advancement in the IVF technologies by making insights into the embryos without professional and expensive labs biohackers can bring in innovations but safety should not be kept on risk. It’s radical to believe in holding the ownership and have the admittance and ability to rebalance the power with an affirmative approach.
“Without change, there is no innovation, creativity or incentive for Improvement “
With appropriate and updated regulation over synthetic biology and considering bioethics at every level biohacking can offer wonders to transform the society through revolutionary ways.
Author: This article has been co-authored by Dr. Nidhi Hukku & Dr. Preeti Saini. Both are highly experienced professionals in their respective field of Biology.