Tech UPTechnologyThe biohacking revolution

The biohacking revolution

In a world where technology has become a crucial part of our lives; a component without which many of us do not conceive of our current days, has begun to make its way, more timidly in Spain -but no less relevant-, a scientific trend that can revolutionize science as we know it, as we live it , as it requires an intimate communion between the practitioner and the technological instrument itself. We are talking about biohacking .

A priori, the word is shocking to us. ” Biohacking “? Biology + hacking. Two words that summarize a new scientific practice in which those who are part of it convert their own organisms or that of other living beings into authentic laboratories to walk around the house: the objective is none other than to expand the capabilities of the human being, physical and mental Assuming that the organism is a simple machine that, of course, can be improved, biohackers experiment in the most varied ways: from genome sequencing to the implantation of subdermal electronic devices or even testing the organism with tests. direct physicals such as exposure to chemical elements.

In the latter case, without going any further, a team of researchers from the Science for the Masses (SfM) group in California, used chlorine e6 ( Ce6 ) to temporarily acquire night vision without the need to wear any – of the so fashionable – wearable gadgets. The laboratory mouse in this case was Gabriel Licina, who, after previous experiments with animals, agreed to be the first (and it depends on the opinions we could say brave or unwary volunteer) to test the jet-colored compound on his own eyes. The result was the obtaining of night vision without glasses with a range of up to a maximum of 50 meters.

And it is that the philosophy of biohacking starts from the principle of DIY ( “do it yourself” or do it yourself.) Where the protagonist is not a piece of furniture or a garment but the human being himself. Something that seems out of science fiction completely touches reality.

 

Is it about creating super humans or aspiring robots?

Many, it is likely, that they feel overwhelmed or even oppose – the most conservative – to this practice that is born out of scientific curiosity , but if we look to the future, the truth is that the possibilities are very attractive. Let’s imagine a patient with cardiovascular risk; something as simple as a subdermal implant could alert both the wearer and the emergency department that you are about to have a heart attack. The LED-based implant would light up with the alert warning and we could deal with this event much more quickly and efficiently. This and other similar applications would help save lives. Now perhaps this science of walking around the house does not seem so picturesque to us.

 

If we are already used to talking about wearable technologies (wearable or wearable technologies), we could say that biohacking is its most transgressive and avant-garde version. In addition, instead of carrying the device externally, we would carry it internally, but the objective would remain the same, with the exception that instead of having one more object to carry, we would carry it implanted in our body to help us with a thousand and one ways in our day to day, in the most ordinary activities, such as when practicing our favorite sport or doing our daily training.

The Circadia device (Project HELEDD) or the Tech Tats (technological tattoos) from the company Chaotic Moon are a good example of this. These tattoos made from an electroconductive ink, a microcontroller and a series of LEDs (all absolutely customizable) control our constants and send the results to our mobile phone. Although they could also be used -previous evolution of this technology- to open the door of the car, the house or the garage or even geolocate lost people (elderly with dementia who roam the streets without remembering how to return home). The possibilities in our day to day are many.

Another well-known company is GrindHouse Wetware, which also develops technological devices to implant in living organisms; thanks to them we will be able to know our heart rate per minute or if we have a fever.

 

The origins of biohacking

This citizen science is not new: it was born more than a decade ago in the United States. Researcher Meredith Patterson is the author of the Biohacking Manifesto . Patterson developed genetically modified bacteria that lit up on contact with melamine, a chemical that is lethal to humans and was used in the past to adulterate pet and human foods (such as some dairy products from Asian countries). These bacteria were modified through the DNA of the jellyfish to turn green in the presence of melamine, which helped save many lives.

Since then, like-minded groups have not stopped emerging all over the world . This desire for scientific literacy in society also has its seed in Spain. In Barcelona there is a quite active group of alternative biologists or biohackers that has existed for more than a year. They are known as DIYBio Barcelona:I am convinced that critical and logical thinking is an unavoidable side effect of doing experiments . Anyone who has a good scientific question having the help and a place to address it, would naturally learn to design an experiment correctly. and he would see for himself what conclusions can be drawn from the results and which ones cannot “, explains Núria Conde Pueyo, from DIYBio Barcelona.

In this group, which also includes Daniel Grajales, Esteban Martín, Alvaro Jansá and José Huerto, the activity does not stop. Apart from having participated in the Biohack Academy , given workshops on how to assemble a mini-mycoscope or use Arduino, they have achieved a joint grant awarded by the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) and Hangar.org (Center for the production and research of visual arts) to improve the equipment of the biohack lab and be able to welcome artists who want to develop projects that combine art and science such as GynePunk .

The DIYBio movement represents a new way of doing science . Not only that, but our communication efforts democratize its access. The philosophy and methodology used offer an alternative to institutional biotechnology that could lead to improvements that have an impact on the quality of life of the population “, sentence Conde.

The DIYBio Madrid group also exists in the capital of Spain, although with less activity than the previous one. Both groups have their origin in the DIYbio.org institution founded in 2008.

Although, at the national level, this discipline is still in its infancy, it has the prospect of becoming a more than common practice in our country and throughout the planet, which will change the way we interact and live.

 

 

In United States

In the United States, the field of biohacking has taken giant leaps . In 2016, the Pasadena Convention Center in California will host for the fourth consecutive year, the Annual Bulletproof Biohacking Meeting in which experts in stem cells or epigenetics will participate in an event to live and breathe with the world’s biohacking elite (the countries VIP for the event cost $ 2,500). Its founder is Dave Asprey , a technology entrepreneur who has spent more than two decades – and invested more than $ 300,000 – hacking his own agency. This event is just a sample: Biohacker Summit, Biohacker BA or even CEBIT , the world’s leading trade fair for computers, information technology, telecommunications, software and services; also made room for a conference on the subject, entitled “Cyborgs and the rise of biohacking.”

Hackteria, Biotweaking, Genomes Unzziped, Biobricks are some of the organizations that support this synthetic biology in some way, but soon there will be many more.

 

The dream of synthetic biology

Thus, bringing creativity to life, merging the human body with technology (or contaminating our biological evolution, depending on how you look at it) … The dream of synthetic biology brings us the most personal and daring vision of the internet of things. Will we stop depending on all this wide range of devices and will we go on to wear them inserted inside us? With time we will find out, but it is clear that there is an obligatory step, to achieve an increase in the level of tolerance towards biotechnology among the population . The following also modifies our vital equation: meat + bone … + silicon?

 

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