Biohacking

SilentRoamer

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
1,213
#2
I'm not sure you can hack something which belongs to you - but then that does beg a very important question: do you own your own genome?

Interestingly I read a book recently called Nerverness by David Zindell and one of the plots in the book revolves around stealing and using others DNA or modifying your own Genome which is prohibited.

Very interesting topic :) One of the main problems I have with any sort of genetic modification are the slippery slopes that lead to Eugenics. There have been a lot of discussion around Francis Galton on BBCR4 recently which has been very interesting.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,292
Location
Scottish Highlands
#4
This kind of thing will be trivial to do in your basement in a few years. Trying to stop it is futile.
Whether I agree with it ethically or not, you are absolutely right here. Gene editing in all its forms, either on your own genes or those of other people/animals/plants, is going to become so easy to do that it stands very little chance of being regulated in any sensible way. Any attempt to outlaw any particular practices will simply drive them underground or into other states with no such restrictions.

I think this is going to be an enormous ethical problem for future generations beginning with those already alive today.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,292
Location
Scottish Highlands
#6
... especially if someone starts biohacking viruses to be more lethal ...
Ouch... very good point. Along with creating more aggressive guard dogs, soldiers etc. (imagine terrorists genetically modifying their 'soldiers'). And then there will be 'cosmetic' genetic editing. This is one area where I really don't think it's going to take long for reality to outstrip science fiction.
 

Parson

This world is not my home
Supporter
Joined
Oct 11, 2006
Messages
7,566
Location
Iowa
#8
This kind of thing will be trivial to do in your basement in a few years. Trying to stop it is futile.
My mind boggles at the concept. I don't want to believe, but I do, that in a decade or at most two, that this will be one of the greatest threats to continued human existence. Nations and companies can be crazy enough, but individuals???? Oh my.
 

farntfar

She turned me into a newt.
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
Messages
1,995
Location
France.
#9
There are no details about how this worked in the article.
Our lad squirted a syringe into himself live on Facebook.
Great.
He grew gills or his hair changed colour as we watched? Otherwise it's just flimflam.

And if he did, the answer to your worries about genetically modified super soldiers is immediately fixable.
"Our" soldiers carry dart guns full of genetic modification serum to make "your" super soldiers feak and weeble as we watch.
Case closed.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,292
Location
Scottish Highlands
#10
There are no details about how this worked in the article.
Our lad squirted a syringe into himself live on Facebook.
Great.
He grew gills or his hair changed colour as we watched? Otherwise it's just flimflam.

And if he did, the answer to your worries about genetically modified super soldiers is immediately fixable.
"Our" soldiers carry dart guns full of genetic modification serum to make "your" super soldiers feak and weeble as we watch.
Case closed.
Well I don't know about this particular case but I do know that CRISPR is essentially a programming language that allows you to design DNA. And the advances in this area are coming so fast that I wouldn't like to try and identify anything they will not be able to do genetically within the very near future.
 

Edward M. Grant

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2015
Messages
395
Location
The Frozen North
#11
As I understand it, there are two major issues with CRISPR:

1. Getting it to every cell that requires modification. In some cases that's not hard, such as when adding insulin-control genes to the pancreas for diabetics, where you only have to add them to a fraction of the cells in order to see the benefit. In other cases, it's much harder, because you need to update every cell in the body.

2. It's not a perfect tool, and does make a small number of mistakes. But new techniques are reducing the number of mistakes by orders of magnitude: for example, I read a while back about new computer software which can detect which DNA sequences the CRISPR sequence might accidentally match, and determine alternative target sequences that won't have the same problem.

Also, there are other means of editing DNA in-situ. CRISPR just gets the most press.
 

Dave

Custom title not found
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 5, 2001
Messages
17,924
Location
Way on Down South, London Town
#14
I may not know what I'm talking about (always a bad thing to do) but this is something carried out on adults and on differentiated cells, yes? Therefore, there is no likelihood of "He grew gills or his hair changed colour as we watched" is there? The hair colour change would only grow in. The sinister government super soldiers can't grow an extra arm or an eye in the back of their heads, but would merely have bulked up muscles and greater stamina? There is no suggestion of germ cells being modified, so no passing changes on to the next generation? No modification of embryos, or any modification of the many adult stem cells adults still have?

In which case, I have less of a problem, I think. Is there a difference between permanent genetic hair colour change and dyeing hair, except that dyeing hair uses toxic and dangerous chemicals? Same argument for prolonging the onset of baldness or grey hair. There will be a great demand for that because there is already one with all kinds of weird procedures that are not medically tested. If these procedures are licensed and medically supervised, then from a public health viewpoint it has to be better, right? Tattooing and body modification is now socially acceptable.

I'd even go so far as to say that skin-lightening and skin-darkening in this way is safer than applying chemicals like Mercury and should probably be allowed. The problem, as you have identified already, is unlicensed procedures, without medical supervision. However, this is already a problem even without gene therapy being available. The Body Builders who take steroids and human enzymes to stimulate muscle growth, and the Transhumans who split their tongues down the centre to become lizard-like are going to use these techniques to modify their bodies even further. There is little that can be done to stop them if that is what they wish to do. There will always be an illegal supplier where there is a demand. The public health crisis that will be created in the future is going to be expensive to deal with.

However, there is no suggestion that we are permanently altering the gene pool - no selective breeding of humans in the way that domestic cats and dogs are now bred? Or am I wrong?
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
7,292
Location
Scottish Highlands
#15
However, there is no suggestion that we are permanently altering the gene pool - no selective breeding of humans in the way that domestic cats and dogs are now bred? Or am I wrong?
I, also, am no expert in this area! However I think you are correct that current gene modification of this sort will not be inheritable, but I also think it is only a matter of time (and probably not very much of it) before that also will be possible...
 

Edward M. Grant

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2015
Messages
395
Location
The Frozen North
#16
It's probably worth noting that the best time to use CRISPR to modify DNA is in the very early stages of an embyro. Then you only have to modify a few cells and they'll figure out where to go in the body, instead of figuring out how to get the CRISPR to the right part of the body.

The Chinese have already done it, though I seem to remember there was some question as to whether they did get all the cells.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
22,038
Location
Highlands
#17
And more on biohacking from the BBC, this time implanting electronic features into the body: Meet the people 'hacking' their bodies

When I was a kid I had visions of the future, and this included people putting bits of metal on their head. At the time I thought it was simply aesthetic - now I realize it could actually be functional!
 

Ihe

Forum Revolutionary
Joined
Apr 4, 2015
Messages
1,093
#18
I, also, am no expert in this area! However I think you are correct that current gene modification of this sort will not be inheritable, but I also think it is only a matter of time (and probably not very much of it) before that also will be possible...
As long as the sex genes aren't modified, I would think that none of the body changes would be passed on. Unless changing something in the body causes a cascade effect that ends up modifying the sex genes themselves, and I don't know if that's possible or not.

Ahhh... I was ruminating on a futuristic story idea concerning some gene editing. I better hurry up before the present overtakes me!
 
Top