Focus On: Biohacking

Hobbyists have been experimenting with DNA and synthetic biology outside conventional lab environments for almost a decade. But with reports of groups experimenting on themselves with unproven gene therapies, is 'DIY biology' heading into dangerous territory?

The Biologist 64(6) p26-29

Pic, above: The BioHack Academy at the Waag Society, Amsterdam, on Flickr

Biohacking is a loose term to describe unconventional experimental biotechnology, often conducted outside traditional research environments and sometimes using everyday items or recycled equipment. It is also known as DIY or garage biology.

The movement has been gaining momentum for more than a decade. Around the world, collectives of scientists, ex-scientists and non-scientists have formed community labs or 'hackspaces' in which to share ideas, knowledge and equipment. Projects are often educational and at the intersection of bioscience, engineering and art.

However, the need to understand the aims and capabilities of biohackers has been given a new urgency by recent reports of people experimenting on themselves with gene-editing tools such as CRISPR[1].

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