In The News

Wed 13 Jul 2016

Disruptive Trends: Biohack Your Way to Success


Business By Social

Humans always strive to be better versions of themselves. Whether it be through self-help courses and books or eating well and exercising, each generation has searched for ways to be better, smarter, and faster.

The disruptive trend of biohacking is beyond simply going Paleo for your diet, and has morphed into two distinct streams.

Where are we now?

Most biohackers are interested in improving the functionality of their bodies through medical, nutritional, electronic or physical means.

They self-experiment with different supplements and diets to improve focus and clarity. Tim Ferris (the 4-Hour Work Week guy) is a biohacking proponent. (1)

Some biohackers test electro-brain stimulation (tDCS – transcranial direct current stimulation) with DIY or cheap electrode caps, to self-treat depression as well as improve endurance and create altered states of consciousness. (2) (3) (4)

You can order DNA testing to assess your personal nutrigenetic responses and physical responses. This testing gives you information about how your DNA predisposes you towards particular diet types and exercise routines. It is used by elite level athletes and biohackers to adjust their food, supplement and exercise intake to deliver stronger performance. (5)

Your gut plays a massive part in your physical and mental health. You can have your microbiome (tummy microbes) sequenced as part of your biohacking to determine what particular probiotics you may need and what microbes may be linked to your weight gain. (6)

Gentler biohacks include using specially selected music to increase focus while you are working or studying (7), and sound and light therapy machines for better sleep. (8)  Even your iPhone now has a night setting to change to more yellow toned lights at dusk to help you sleep better.

One of the strengths of the growth of biohacking, is the emphasis on documentation and testing of individual responses. Many biohackers have mountains of individual data showing what they tested, when they tested and their results. It may not be 100% pure scientific method, but the data has the potential for aggregation and with a large enough sample size this data could be useful for future research.

DIYBio

Another large branch of biohacking is all about democratising biological research, and comes under the banner of DIY biology or DIYBio. It has a lot in common with IT hackers, in that they believe in open access, sharing information and taking a world view.

These are not your kids at the table playing with a toy microscope, people in this group tackle everything from genome sequencing, through to drug and medical research, and pathogen research.

While many DIYBios have built their own labs within their homes or businesses, in the US there are shared labs and hacklabs to allow DIYBios access to more advanced equipment. (9) (10) To date, there has been no evidence of any experimentation within shared labs “going rogue.”

Australia is a bit slow to the party with community labs. BioQuisitive (11) is one of the leading BioLabs in Australia, and provides resources, advice, support to people keen to learn, experiment and have fun with science.

While much DIYBio research is individually based, there have been community projects such as during the Fukishima meltdown, when Tokyo biohackers created home-made Geiger counters and assisted communities identify areas of radioactive risk.

The Open Insulin Project is looking at ways to quickly and cheaply create insulin using open source processes, as there is no current generic insulin available on the market. This means people in third world countries or lower socio economic groups cannot afford this essential medication. (12)  DIYBios are attempting to remedy this problem.

Implications

There is massive demand for products and systems to enhance wellbeing, cognition and health.

We know that one size does not fit all when it comes to achieving results from diet and exercise. The growth of personal biohacking provides the potential for increased certainty of results.

We also know that funding for scientific research in general is being slashed across the world by all governments and academic institutions, making independent research an attractive option for those with a scientific interest.

The challenge is that biohacking and DIY Bio is totally unregulated. There are no guarantees that many of these tests and hacks are safe, ethical, moral or actually work.

Because health is such a lucrative market, it attracts a large share of charlatans and snake oil salespeople, racing to sell their machines that go beep, and which deliver no more than a placebo effect. There are no peer reviewed medical tests of much of the biohacking work, merely anecdotal evidence, or in-house research.

The problem is that there are genuine developments and scientific breakthroughs occurring, but no easy way to sift the true biotech successes from the pseudo successes.

While IT was the frontier of much of the disruptive trends we have seen in the past 20 years, many think that biotech will lead a whole new wave of disruption.

From a business perspective, the businesses that will succeed will be the ones that can put scientific rigour behind their breakthroughs.

They will combine the new discoveries with old problems in innovative ways. Smart businesses of the future will combine appropriate DNA testing and sequencing with individualised health and life interventions.

In decades to come it may become normal to take a DNA swab before joining a gym, or signing up for a motivation course.  Technological biohacks may be prescribed in the same way that tablets are now done via your doctor.

Biohacking is just at the very beginning of the wave and it is definitely one for smart businesses to watch.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.bulletproofexec.com/127-tim-ferriss-on-smart-drugs-performance-and-biohacking-podcast/
  2. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/07/27/zap-my-brain-rise-diy-brain-stimulation
  3. http://australia.foc.us/
  4. http://www.thync.com/
  5. https://www.dnafit.com/
  6. http://ubiome.com/
  7. https://www.focusatwill.com/
  8. https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/conditions/trouble-sleeping/articles/sleep-gadgets-and-apps
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/18/biohackers-strange-world-diy-biology
  10. https://backchannel.com/diybio-comes-of-age-4a5b15d1131f#.gunqq1der
  11. http://bioquisitive.org.au/
  12. https://experiment.com/projects/open-insulin

 


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