A former NASA scientist wants all human beings to have the power to change their genes. Dr. Josiah Zayner is the CEO of The Odin, an organization that makes it easy for people to grow and use bio-organisms in their homes. He’s also a biohacker and part of a growing number of trained and DIY biologists who want to use their knowledge to make big changes in how human beings live their lives.
Dr. Zayner is a leading proponent of DIY genetic engineering. In an interview with The Guardian, he said that DIY genetics will create a race of superhumans who aren’t “slaves” to the DNA they were born with.
“I imagine people going to some place like a tattoo parlour, and instead of getting a tattoo they pick out some DNA that makes them muscly, or changes the colour of their hair or eyes,” he said.
He’s even used himself as a test subject. The biochemist from California recently injected himself with Crispr, a powerful tool for editing genes. His goal was to increase his muscle mass by directly targeting the myostatin gene. By starting with this gene, he’ll be able to show measurable results, Zayner said to The Guardian.
So far, his experiment hasn’t yielded any noticeable changes in the muscle mass in his forearm, the site of the injection. But Zayner says that experiments in the lab on animals normally take about four to six months. He expects that some of the DNA in his muscles has changed but he hasn’t noticed any change in the size of his muscles just yet.
According to Live Science, Crispr stands for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” It’s a technology that provides scientists with a simple way to change DNA sequences and functions. Crispr could become a revolutionary tool in medicine, Live Science notes. Researchers believe that it has the potential to eliminate genetic defects, treat disease, and improve crop yields.
But there are certain caveats. The MIT Technology Review reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that selling gene therapy without the necessary approval is against the law. Their concern is that the newly introduced DNA could have unexpected interactions with the human immune system. This hasn’t stopped Zayner’s company, The Odin, from selling DIY gene modification kits to the general public. And there’s proof that people are interested in the technology. Dr. Zayner posted a video of his experiment on himself and posted it on YouTube. The video currently has over 80,000 views