At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO)

At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO)

GENE editing has become a thing. CRISPR, an easy and inexpensive technique for making precise changes to DNA, has made researchers around the world race to trial its use in treating a host of diseases.


However, this race isn't confined to the lab. In October, Josiah Zayner, a biochemist who once used to work for NASA, became the first person to have edited his genes with CRISPR.


Zayner, in a lecture about human genetic engineering, streamed live on Facebook, whipped out a vial and a syringe and injected himself. Now, other biohackers are also getting ready to take the plunge and tinker with their genes.


At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO)

In June, many dozen scientists flew to Big Sky, Montana, to talk about the latest in CRISPR research. They had a lot to discuss, given that CRISPR—a tool that lets scientists cut DNA to disable genes or insert new ones—is now the hottest topic in biology and is mentioned in the same breath as pronouncements such as “changing the world” or “curing humanity of disease.”


Japanese researcher Osamu Nureki got up to play a short movie clip on the second day in Big Sky. “I was sitting in the front, and I just heard this gasp from everyone behind me,” said Sam Sternberg, who used to work in the CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna’s lab at the University of California in Berkeley. As he said, it was the biggest reaction to data he has ever seen at a conference.


Nureki’s paper was published in Nature Communications, and the video astonished Twitter, too. Despite being grainy, blobular, and dark, the video is also remarkably clear for a molecule-scale movie.



CRISPR apparently exists, and it apparently works. Scientists have used this technique to do anything from ridding mice of HIV to beefing up dogs. However, the evidence for how it works has always been indirect. Modern biochemistry research is a series of elaborate workarounds to infer the behavior of molecules until now too small to see.



Take, for instance, X-ray crystallography, that Nureki had formerly used to study the structure of CRISPR-Cas9. Scientists spend several months trying to perfect the art of coaxing Cas9 to grow into crystals. They then took the precious crystals to a particle accelerator to shoot X-rays through them, by producing a pattern unintelligible to an average individual but which experts can measure to infer the structure of Cas9. The final result is a computer model of Cas9, which resembles a clump of curly ribbons. Repeat all of that using Cas9 frozen at different stages of editing DNA, and then you can get a handful of static, computer-generated snapshots after many months or even years.


At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO)

Nishimasu posted the video to Twitter, and the dark, grainy clip has since gotten over 2,500 likes. The response has been more enthusiastic than any other paper, he has published, including ones in the most prestigious journals such as Nature and Cell.


In fact, he said, the team submitted the videos to top-tier journals, who rejected it citing a lack of novelty that maybe is true. Researchers are considered to be dispassionate creatures of data. Still, they are also only humans and tend to believe their eyes. “I realized that seeing is believing,” said Nishimasu.


References: New Scientist, The Atlantic, YouTube

At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO) At Least 100 Biohackers Are Using CRISPR To Edit Their DNA (VIDEO) Reviewed by Κατερίνα Παπ on 6:55 PM Rating: 5

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