2017-11-21 15:46:26 UTC
Josiah Zayner is the first person known to have edited his own DNA and he showed the world just how easy it is to do, live-streaming the process on his blog, "Science, Art, Beauty". Zayner claims this was the second time he has genetically modified himself.
Using CRISPR, a relatively new gene-editing technique, he removed the protein Myostatin from an area in his forearm. Myostatin inhibits muscle growth so he should, at least in theory, notice an increase in muscle mass in this area after the experiment.
The process involved just one piece of DNA that contains a protein (Cas9) and a guide RNA (gRNA), which essentially tells the protein where to go. When the modified DNA was injected into his forearm, the protein and gRNA targeted and then deleted the myostatin gene.
Whether he'll be gifted with superhuman strength, we'll have to wait and see but, as he says on his blog, that was never the point of the experiment.
"The point is that we are on the cusp of humanity changing," said Zayner.
"This is the first of many people who will change their genomes. This will happen for medical reasons, for science, athletics or maybe just because people wanted to or were bored."
Now an ardent proponent of citizen science and a self-identified biohacker, Zayner is an ex-NASA scientist, who worked on developing bacteria to support human life on Mars. His goal today is to democratize science and provide everyone with the tools for do-it-yourself biology and genetic engineering – a somewhat controversial ambition. Some experts have expressed concern that it could lead to a poorly regulated community of DIY scientists that lack the oversight of traditional scientific institutions but others are far more positive.
"This is the first time in the history of the Earth that humans are no longer slaves to the genetics they are born with," said Zayner.
"As I write this, the FDA is in the process of approving the first human gene therapy treatment. Still, it's too slow for me, clinical trials have been going on since before 2008. I want to accelerate that. I want people to have a choice about their genetics."