Concern mounts over biohacking “stunts”

The biohacking movement has come under increased scrutiny after the death of one of its best-known members last month.

Alan Traywick, 28, died in a spa in Washington DC on April 29. It is suspected that he took a dose of the drug Ketamine, lost consciousness and drowned. Traywick gained worldwide notoriety last February after injecting himself with a highly experimental herpes treatment in front of an aghast audience at a biohacking conference in Austin, Texas.

While Traywick’s death was not directly related to a biohacking stunt, the debate has intensified over whether biohacking -- body modification and augmentation with the aim of gaining enhanced abilities -- should be subject to strict regulation. Other biohacking stunts have included DIY biologists injecting themselves with CRISPR and with experimental HIV treatments.

Speaking to the New York Times, Harvard biologist George Church said that synthetic biologists should be closely monitored: “Anyone who does synthetic biology should be under surveillance, and anyone who does it without a license should be suspect.”

“If you really want to do this, there isn’t a whole lot stopping you,” said Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

Yet not all of the scientific community is concerned. University of Queensland biologist Kostas Vavitsas believes that the biohacking movement is capable of “self-regulation”.

“I don’t think that biohackers need a licence; they need to be encouraged and allowed to cultivate transparency and a sense of responsibility within their communities. And so far they are doing a great job”.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | biohacking, diy biology, human enhancement, synthetic biology

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

 Search BioEdge

 Subscribe to BioEdge newsletter
rss Subscribe to BioEdge RSS feed

comments powered by Disqus