From synthetic biology to women’s health, this is the future of proactivity that will completely revolutionize fields like personalized medicine.
As someone who loves the intersection between technology and biology, when the term biohacking comes up, I get super excited.
Despite the name and Oxford Dictionary’s definition,
It’s actually a really interesting science.
Biohacking describes the process of conducting science experiments without the need of high-grade lab equipment, or a lab in general.
There are so many different things that can be done with biohacking (sometimes called DIY biology), from optimizing gender-specific health discrepancies, to synthetic biology at home, to creating groundbreaking developments in bacteria using simple kits and materials off of amazon!
In this article, I’ll be going over what biohacking is, how it works, and how it disrupted my life (and can completely disrupt yours too!). If you’re not up to speed with general biology topics, no problem! Search online and check out this article before hopping into this!
For me, biohacking started off months ago with synthetic biology.
I. Applied Biology in Biohacking.
Synthetic biology, bioengineering, or synbio. This technology still remains largely undefined, and is quite a large-spanning in terms of its applications. It’s not completely defined, but it’s not completely obscure either. It’s rather this really exciting notion of possibility that we’re all looking at, anxiously waiting to see what happens.
So, if you were waiting for me to give you a clear cut definition of exactly what it is, there isn’t really one. You can think of it as a new form of engineering however, where we’re using organic materials to create new parts, systems, devices, or applications. By combining the principles of engineering with the wonders of biology, we get synbio.
Synthetic biology is actually a subsidiary of biotechnology, which is the combination of technology with biology-based, or biology-focused product. For example, biotechnology could be an assistive walking cane for the blind, meaning that it’s not necessarily involving biological parts, but it could also mean cell-based meat and bioreactors, which do involve organic parts.
In short, synthetic biology involves all sorts of biotechnology, but not all biotechnology involves synthetic biology!
The end result of synthetic biology could mean that we can create entire humans without other humans!
Synthetic biology combines multiple STEAM areas, from biology, to engineering, to physics, to chemistry, to wireless technology, etc. There’s anything you want, and more.
So how does all of this work? Through
This is how we build synbio👇🏾
As you are probably aware, biology is not organized in a way that considers standardization. There isn’t as much precision when you compare it to physics and chemistry, for example. But that’s what makes it exciting, we’re studying life! It’s abstract. But, still organized.
Synthetic biology applies the principle of bio-design, which tells us how these four different pillars work with each other to create a final product that is functional. There are currently two perspectives:
- Progression: This is building towards something, its used in most lab processes and development
- Regression: This is building out something, typically used in biohacking; easier!
The beauty of synthetic biology is that the fundamental computational and logistic principles that we base our lives on are applicable. This is specifically evident in a field known as biocomputing, where biological parts or systems are used to make digital computation, or store digital information (but we’ll get into that later). The point is, there’s way less chaos in synbio, than in traditional bio. Here’s why.
Especially in biohacking, understanding computational biology is really important, as it’s a primary at-home go-to. Logic is comprised of gates, which describe the different conditions under which something occurs! Each of these gates make up up a circuit, where one or more inputs pass through a gate(s) to result in only one output.
In terms of synbio and biohacking, the inputs are genes/DNA, and the outputs are proteins!
👆🏾 if you want a good analogy for any of these, just think of different idioms and phrases you hear all the time: “you can eat your cake NAND have it”, “that’s NOT happening”, “It’s not either OR”, “this AND that”. There are so many examples where your all of your friends and family start unknowingly creating computational circuits! So let’s break down each of the steps in the approaches, starting with the system (and then we can get into bio-circuits)!
So, if we take the simple operational rules of the computers that we use today, we can input a biological part that will allow us to use operators in biological/organic systems. Let’s dive into a key technology, called a genetic circuit 🧬, in which we can use operators to code for DNA/RNA, each of which have specific functions.
In order to design functional genetic circuits, the bottom-up sequence is optimal, where we begin with the smallest components, and over time, scale to the largest one. The reason for this is because we need to define all of the different operators supported in biocomputing, which differentiates from that of electronic circuits and traditional computer logic.
So, to start, we’re going to need to break down each of these different symbols, 1 by 1. There are 18 completely different parts (21 in total):
- promoter → This is a marker that defines where RNA polymerase begins to transcribe for RNA.
- cds → a coding sequence where the gene’s DNA or RNA codes for a specific protein through amino acids.
- ribosome entry site (IRES) → the part of RNA where transcription occurs for protein creation (at the 5' end of eukaryotic mRNA).
- terminator → the signaling sequence that marks the ending of transcription on a gene/operon.
- operator → sequence that allows transcription proteins to attach to DNA.
- insulators → prevent chromatids from doing weird stuff when they’re near each other.
- ribonuclease site → active site of the enzyme that degrades RNA.
- RNA stability element → something that prevents RNAase 👆🏾 from doing it’s thing.
- protease site → active site of a protein-breakdown enzyme.
- protein stability element → something that prevents protease from doing its thing.
- replication origin → part of genome where replication started.
- primer binding site → spot on the RNA/DNA where the primer binds.
- restriction site → 6–8 base pairs of DNA that binds to a given restriction enzyme, which destroys cellular invaders.
- blunt restriction site → The simplest DNA end.
- 5' or 3' restriction site → strand of a sticky-end produced by a restriction enzyme “overhang”, and can exist on either end, which creates the 5' or 3' direction variation between restriction sites.
- 5' or 3' overhang → the phosphate for which a base ends on a restriction enzyme. If it ends on a 5' phosphate, it is a 5' overhang. If it ends on a 3' hydroxyl, it is a 3' overhang.
- signature → This is referring to the input or output of a function/class, and what it returns; a specific combination of genes or a gene that yields a certain gene expression or pattern of gene expression
- user defined (UD) → A function that contains a bunch of other assumuptions/functions that perform different things. This is like a dictionary for synbio functions!
So to define a synthetic biological circuit, or a genetic circuit, we use these functions to create a biological system. The final result can look like this (not literally):
And yes, there are other parts aside from genetic circuits!
Build-a-Bear (biology edition) Parts
In synbio, we have parts known as biobricks. They build up systems, which we can think of as bio-houses. Except, biobricks don’t combine like normal bricks do. They are more like Build-a-bear, where two differently shaped structures can click together to form an entirely new one, and you can combine whatever you want to create something new!
This defines an important biobrick principle: biobricks can combine to form new and different biobricks. They’re the building blocks of themselves! This means that a biohouse is technically a biobrick 🤯. Enough confusion, let’s take a look:
Forget build-a-bear. Let’s build-a-biobrick. It’s a simple, multistep process:
- You have to determine a gene sequence that you want to use and then proceed by locating the restriction sites to begin the actual building process.
- Arrange your primers with the final biobrick sequence, then use the polymerase chain reaction or gene synthesization.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): A sequence of steps that expand a small DNA sample into a large one by copying it. Do: (1) denaturation of the template into single strands; (2) annealing of primers to each original strand for new strand synthesis; and (3) extension of the new DNA strands from the primers.
Just a couple of other terms you should know:
Denaturation: reshaping a protein’s/DNA’s 3D and 2D structure (except it’s primary structure). This can be done through heat or chemical stress from compounds
Annealing: Having conducive temperatures for two separate single strands fo DNA strands to come together to form the original DNA
The biobricks utilize different cloning techniques to go from biobrick a + biobrick c to biobrick (a+c). The bricks are based on restriction enzymes EcoRI, XbaI, SpeI, and PstI, as well as other restriction endonuclease, like Bacillus amyloliquefaciens (BAMHI).
Restriction endonulease: protein (enzyme) made by bacteria that cleaves DNA and destroys foreign substances, like viruses
Biological devices are actually quite simple. They’re just a bunch of parts that work collectively to define a full function. We have a lot of devices in the human body, from our cells, to our nerves, to our enzymes that make up different reaction complexes. You can think of it as a car dealership. The parts are assembled on the assembly line, and then they make the devices, which constitute the functionality and form of the final car (the system).
As we already know, parts + parts = devices, devices + devices = systems. And their derivatives are the materials that we get. Systems include genetic circuits (we know 😎), plasmids, or vectors.
Ok, so we’ve gotten parts down. But then, I just knowledge-bombed with plasmids and vectors. Let’s break these down too, because they’re simple!
Well, the two are actually related. A plasmid is a circular bundle of DNA found inside of the cell. To get a recombinant plasmid, you digest part of the plasmids genetics with a restriction enzyme, and insert a new target gene with the enzyme DNA ligase. Then the plasmid will spread its new genetic code with all other gene-containing structures in the cell, like chromosomes.
On the other hand, a vector can be a plasmid. These are exploding cars with DNA inside that transmit a new genetic structure to the rest of the cell for molecular cloning. Vectors can be viral, meaning they’re spread quickly using a virus. This is a common tool in the field of optogenetics, where the brain is gene-edited by a viral vector, so neurons can be light stimulated, for example.
From here, the bigger question becomes “how do you program these systems to make these biological systems functional?”.
Well, just like typical computational circuits can be controlled through computer language and programming languages, synthetic biology systems also have programming languages too!
We can design biological circuits using different programming languages! Such developments mean that we can start doing synthetic biology at home using our computers
Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL): SBOL is an open standard for the representation of in silico (meaning on computers) biological designs. SBOL has language-based genetic libraries containing vocabulary and part glyphs for genetic bio-design. SBOL is comprehensive platform that is useful from wet lab biologists to software developers.
CRN++: This is a molecular programming language for synthetic biology. This allows users to completely redesign biological parts and systems to create new ones that haven’t previously existed! This is described as ‘embedding computation in molecular contexts, in situations where electronic micro-controllers cannot be inserted’. This means we can customize synbio.
Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML): This is a representation format based on XML, that allows for users to create computational models of biological processes. It also has a large community of users that allow users to get acquainted with the platform and get support with different cases. It can represent metabolic networks, cell signaling pathways, regulatory networks, infectious diseases, and many other biological phenomena.
As we already know, 3D printers use computer aided design (CAD), a platform that allows 3D printers to understand what they are going to do, or like how architects have a blueprint before they begin to build the building. They have to know what they are doing before they just do it. This is extremely important.
Turns out, we can do the exact same thing with synthetic biology, by using. blueprinting software!
Cello: This is a software that can be used to design biological circuits. The reason why it’s so good is because in operates in a method very similar to CAD (in fact, it’s called Cello CAD), using algorithms that code using Verilog, which is a standardized IEEE programming language. Cello can automatically create circuits for you, build the DNA that corresponds properly with the circuit, and even simulate the performance of the circuit you’ve created.
SBOL Designer: This is a Java-based software for simulating genetic circuits and toggle switch, which is a type of synthetic regulation system for genes, which can be switched on and off (activated and deactivated):
Thinkercell: It’s like TinkerCad, except for synthetic biology. They call themselves a “Computer-Aided Design software tool for Synthetic Biology”. Their software is useful thanks to its advanced visual interface, and multiple programming language API (application programming interface — allows two software to have a convo 💬), as its compatible with Python (yayyyy!), Octave, C/C++ (another yay!), and Ruby.
So, let’s put this software to use, and build something!
Because synthetic biology is the combination of engineering and biology, it’s required that we go into some math. In general, biology doesn’t always involve too much complex math, but you’ll be needing some calculus and equations here and there (depending on what type of biology research you’re doing, and in what subfield). But, because this is biohacking, everything can be shredded down into less technical terms!
The main mathematical concepts are mass action kinetics and differentials. An ordinary differential equation is quite simple; it’s an equation with 1+ functions of 1+ independent variables, and the derivatives of said functions.
A derivative, in math, is just the instantaneous rate of change of a function, or the slope of the tangent line. For example, if the variable’s function is f(x) = 5, the derivative (called f’x) is 0 because the function is a constant, so it’s not changing. The tangent line is a line that only touches the function at one point (when the function is graphed). A differential equation takes 1+ functions and relates it to the function(s) derivative(s).
Mass action kinetics are more difficult when you get into them, but from a simpler standpoint, they’re actually quite easy to understand! Mass action kinetics describe how a chemical reaction is proportional to the products (post-chemical reaction) of the concentrations of the reactant (thing that is reacting).
This is also why when people try to tell me that there isn’t much math involved in biology, I get defensive… chemistry contains math, and chemistry is a huge part of biology — not to mention evolutionary theorems and Hardy Weinberg-equilibrium. Math is important in biology, too!
Anyway, to build-a-bio, you’ll need to
- Choose what you’re trying to model and understand what it is
- Make a full model detailing its structure, behavior, interactions
- A little mathematical magic to understand the logistics of its chemical reactions, and be able to model it
From there, BOOM! You get a whole biological pathway, simulated!
DBTA Cycle ♻️
Just like how biology has the scientific method as its operational system, synbio has the DBTA. DBTA stands for Design → Build → Test → Analyze. This is sometimes referred to as the DBT cycle (same thing, minus the analyze).
Let’s examine what we did here. We started with designing a biological pathway using bio-modelling software. Then, we started building bio-houses.
Then, we started testing the bio-bricks using our methods and biological systems, and then we finally were able to analyze the results of our system.
The DBT cycle is even more applicable inside the realm of biohacking. It looks something like this:
When you conduct studies with bacteria in your basement, gene editing bacteria to allow it to survive with a different media, or playing with CRISPR, or building out fibers (fun!), you need to follow this 4-step process even harder.
The reason for this is because when you’re making biological systems at home, you won’t have immediate mentoring or access to corrective equipment. When working in a lab, or working in your lab-at-home, DBTA is always super important.
Synbio ‧ Biohacking = Synbiohacking
👆🏾 this is one of the most revolutionary easy-access technologies to date.
Applications of Synbiohacking
What’s interesting about synbio in biohacking is that synthetic biology contains about all extended disciplines of applied biology, like gene editing, optogenetics, connectomics, biosensors, and biomedicines. Let’s review a couple.
Biosensors are re-engineered organisms that can be used in the body to collect different biological data that would otherwise require extensive invasive procedure.With synthetic biology at home, you can even design the circuits that code for the biosensor genes!
Aside from that, teams at competitions and an awesome alum at TKS (Ben Nashman), have been able to do this at home/with some research then founding a company. Look at this project on nanomaterial-enhanced paper-based biosensors!
Nanomaterial-enhanced paper-based biosensors
We present nanoparticle-based lateral-flow test-strip devices. * We review nanomaterial-based paper biosensors. * We…
Beyond the scope of biosensors lies biohacking. There are so many seemingly futuristic projects that you can work on from the comfort of your home, like engineering bacteria. There are like, 10,000 kits for that.
Optogenetics describes the use of gene editing and neuroscience together to achieve biological mind control! As crazy as this may sound, it’s actually really important, and has applications in creating new eye disease therapeutic methods, and even allowing for advanced therapy by directly stimulating neurons with light (a.k.a. real hypnosis). This is all done through a protein called rhodopsin. This has already been done in mice!
So, aside from the technology itself, how can this contribute to biohacking, or vice versa?
While the technology may seem so advanced that it could likely only be contributed to (from a scientific standpoint) in a lab, there’s actually a lot we could do at home for the topic. Two synbio projects at home:
- Trying to gene edit some viruses that can deliver genes to another bacterium, and testing if the gene is expressed in the new bacterium. You can use a simple gene editing kit(s) and also some different media to see how the genetic code can be spread through a viral vector. This might require some sponsorship, but its totally worth it!
- Developing new laser lights for optogenetics that are more efficient.
These are some really rewarding projects you could dabble in from home, and even develop into a full-fledged initiative for the field!
Cellular agriculture is a bio-practice that describes using cells from an animal or gene editing yeast to grow food, proteins, and/or other non cell products. It’s a huge sustainability technology. Aside from this, slaughterhouses generate over 10 million tons of waste per year. Though slaughtering animals isn’t good, we can actually make some good out of the killing of animals ☹️. Their bones and tendons contain the protein collagen, which can be easily churned into gelatin. Though this sounds morbid, look at these innocent mittens!
By taking gelatin, water, and a couple of other materials at home, you can make better wool yarn than the ones made from animals at home! While your result may not be as good as this mitten on your first try, you’ll come out with some pretty awesome results!
This is a technology that Microsoft has been working on for quite some time. Biocomputing != computational biology. Computational biology is conventional computers doing biology, while biocomputing is biological systems becoming conventional computers.
Because biocomputing has so much potential, there are actually a bunch of applications:
- Storing the entirety of the world’s data in a shoebox using DNA digital data storage. This is turning binary (0,1) to physical DNA (A,T,C,G) and vice versa — and its super efficient/secure
- Solving optimization problems. These are hard problems that need the best possible solutions. Using things like slime molds and human cells, you can actually create something called a memristor, which is a resistor with biological memory. This means that they can optimize the functional capabilities of a computer, making it super powerful!
- Crushing quantum computing. As much as I love quantum, biocomputing was found to possibly outperform quantum computing due to needing less processing power and energy.
Even though the field isn’t even close to being done with any of these applications, there’s still a lot of stuff that biohackers can do without a Microsoft workspace, or a super-high funds lab.
For example, you can simulate logic gates, play around with slime mold bacteria, or even work with biocomputing model kits of memristors. I once did a project in Python that converted information into DNA sequences!
If you want to learn more about biocomputing, check this out!
In terms of the field itself, gene editing is just utilizing different biochemical tools to replace different genes in the body, and/or causing specific genes to activate. This has a lot of different meanings, from designer babies to food to eliminating diseases. One of the most popular tools is CRISPR, a gene editing scissor method using enzymes, and others include Cas-CLOVER and prime editing. Check out Dr. Jennifer Doudna if you want to learn more!
Gene editing has become one of the most open source technologies to date, with companies like the Odin allowing you and me to edit DNA for only $170 🤑!
DIY Bacterial Gene Engineering CRISPR Kit
If you are looking to use this kit to learn molecular biology and genetic engineering we instead recommend that you…
You can even do PCR at home now!
As the boundaries of biohacking are pushed farther and farther back, experienced biohackers have started playing with pathogens in their bedrooms and injecting themselves with CRISPR in their garages.
⚠️ Warning: I do not recommend this. DO NOT begin experimenting on yourself or others (or animals) at home. Though I advocate for the development of biohacking and fearless exploration, this can be extremely dangerous. As of now, I strongly urge against doing this. The kits are things that I have tried, and recommend. I do not take any responsibility for any effects that may occur if you begin injecting yourself.
That said, there’s a lot of different things that you can do with gene-editing, from self-experiments to bacteria editing.
There’s also other software, like Benchling, where you can visualize DNA sequences and gene expression in structures like plasmids, and even build your own!
Designer Babies and Synbio-genesis
So creating humans or even perfect babies from scratch or from cells is a looooonnnng way to go. Like that long. But that’s the ultimate goal of synthetic biology in the first place. To create a future of life.
This isn’t really like Shelley’s Frankenstein, where we’re mad scientists digging up graves to create a monster of a human using electric shocks (great book, by the way), but it is the idea that we can recreate the blessing of life.
But we’re not actually starting from scratch. We’re just optimizing and building off of the framework that life has provided us.
As for biohacking, basically any new breakthroughs or technologies we develop are contributing to the possibility of semi-artificial life.
But what does that even mean?
An artificial cell is, “a completely synthetic cell that can capture energy, maintain ion gradients, contain macromolecules as well as store information and have the ability to mutate”. 👈🏾 if we want to make artificial life a reality, this is what we’d have to create, and we haven’t thus far.
We have made strides, though, creating different forms of Escherichia coli (you know… the thing in Chipotle. JK, I love Chipotle) with less codons, but all of the amino acids.
However, the creation of a viable and culture-able artificial life form remains to be seen.
Who knows if it’s even possible!
Who’s doing it?
All of these companies are working on synbio, just in the context of meat and dairy. That’s it.
According to Forbes, “Synthetic Biology Has Raised $12.4 Billion”. There are a lot of different 🦄s and pre-🦄 emerging. Here are 5 faves:
- Geltor: bio-design and protein making.
2. Eat JUST: unicorn making cultured meat and plant-based egg.
3. Ginkgo Bioworks: The organism company making biology design-able.
4. The Odin: Pioneering awesome biohacking product kits for anyone!
5. OpenBCI: Neuro-biohacking kits for anyone, from BCIs to neuroscience studies. Though it’s not directly synbio, guess what their products can be used for…🤔. SYNBIO!
My personal experience with synbiohacking is one full of fun. As someone who’s fascinated by a whole lot of technology, I found the whole idea of synthetic biology to be a blast. Though I wasn’t really sure about exactly what it was at the start, it was definitely something that I knew I was interested in, among a whole lot of other things.
I went on to become one of the founders and president of my school’s synbio, science bowl, and innovation club (two of which were postponed due to COVID-19…), and I’ve been learning a whole lot in the field of synbio! I was playing with bacteria, working on CRISPR projects, re-engineering GFP, and playing around with jellyfish genes. Now, I’m looking at using these kits and other materials to build my own biohacking systems.
Biohacking also involves just conventional biotech — I’ve been building my own Arduino systems that have been able to monitor my health vitals, and give insights into my physical health. I’ve also been looking into how cleansing my gut microbiome has been helping me!
Looking back on these special moments of innovation, I’ve realized that I thought all of this was just biology, and that my true developments would only be inside of a laboratory. But I’ve realized that isn’t true. While I still love being in the lab, being at home for synbio has become second nature, and my love for technology and coding has enhanced that by 100%. For quite some time, I’ve been completely unaware of what biohacking was, and whether or not I was even participating in it.
Now, it’s become clear to me — and hopefully now to you — that the intersection between the DIY biology movement (the rise of do-it-yourself biohacking) and synthetic biology experiments is inspiring the new wave of innovation that will completely disrupt the planet! We’re all starting to realize that we don’t need a lab to explore how DNA can be used for electricity (yes, that’s a *fact*), or how the future of food will progress.
So, synthetic biology is cool and all, but what about biohacking for the body? What about taking who you are and 10x-ing yourself through biology?
Though in synbio, we explored one application of this, regarding how people were (dangerously) self-testing with injections, there are actually myriad ways for us to advance our biology without posing a health risk for ourselves.
II. Biohacking w/Chronobiology.
As humans, we always consider ourselves to be unique. One of things that makes us different from other organisms is our biology. Our brain is a complex of over 86 billion neurons, and we have advanced nervous systems that can regulate the millions of chemical reactions working in our body at a time. We are capable of regenerating our skin, have more advanced appendages than ever, and more.
Yet, for some reason, we don’t take care of our bodies. It’s almost as if we built hospitals to excuse ourselves from the personal responsibility of health. While of course, I don’t mean literally, it is true to an extent that we humans don’t take care of ourselves. We’re constantly subjecting our bodies to exhaustion, eating unhealthy food, not making an effort to understand what our bodies respond to best, etc.
Then, we panic when we find out that there’s something wrong. Something misaligned, misdiagnosed, or possibly even unknown. We rely on others, like medical professionals, to tell us what’s wrong, what we need, and what to do, even though we have an entire network of collective intelligence called the internet at our disposal (and not everybody has access to it!).
It’s not that medical personnel, AI, and lab testing aren’t reliable, it’s that they often don’t have enough or the correct information to work off of. It’s also important to note that medicine is often standardized, meaning that most of the time you won’t be getting completely unique treatment. But look at how well we’ve done! We’ve created vaccines, developed CRISPR, cured diseases, invented efficient hospital methods, used nanotechnology for surgery, and created education for biomedical engineering.
But what if everyone had the erudition to do so?
This is the premise of biohacking, and more specifically in the context of biohacking for the body, where an individual uses experimentation, documentation, and analysis to understand and cater to their body.
Biohacking our Lives
The field of chronobiology — the study of biological cycles and their emergent effects — says otherwise. We have these constantly spinning clocks inside of our bodies, both men and women alike, that detail the different means by which our body reacts to things physiologically.
In fact, generalizing/standardizing biology is the premise of biohacking, so that’s what we’re going to do right now.
If we look at restfulness and alert-ness, we can see that there is a temporal clock constantly regulating the process. It’s known as the circadian rhythm.
Just looking at this process, you can see that it’s kind of like the holy grail of biohacking. It’s a 24-hour cycle of the body’s internal clock, through which we can determine the point in time where we are at optimal efficiency, starting at waking and ending at resting, and then repeating in a loop.
Looking at the timer, we can even see the points at which we secrete melatonin (from a structure called the pineal gland), a hormone that is produced in response to darkness, and helps to calibrate our biologically produced timers and help us go to sleep.
In our brains, we have a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the central peacemaker of our circadian rhythm. The SCN is divided into two distinct clusters of ~10,000 brain cells: the ventral core, and the dorsal shell. The ventral core accepts images we receive from light, and the dorsal shell takes the retinal input. The entirety of the SCN is located inside of the hypothalamus, a small but extremely important region in at the base of the brain.
As the master circadian clock, the SCN delivers all of the necessary signals that cause the physiological responses observed in the circadian rhythm.
So since we have this cycle, we can optimize our biological systems by working during the times where we would be most productive physically. For example, at 9:00 PM, working isn’t optimal. Don’t start your work at 9:00 PM. That’s not smart. That’s when you start secreting melatonin.
The point is that by simply looking at our circadian rhythm and operating accordingly, we’re doing ourselves a favor, and effectively biohacking.
The funny thing is that not enough people do this. We’re not constantly examining our bodies, making sure they’re in check, making sure they’re regulated. And this isn’t limited to just becoming more productive.
We can simply biohack our health by observing and monitoring it.
And just like in synbio, there are some leading companies making biohacking super possible for us all. Let’s take a quick break to look at some (or you can skip this mini-section).
Notion is one of my all time favorites. Notion is an all-in-one productivity tool that basically combines all of Google’s writing services (Sheets, Docs, Sites), and crams them into one, awesome web-app/mobile and desktop application. Not to mention their unique organizational features. Notion is unique! My Notion example:
As you can see, it was possible for me to track acne levels, diets, hydration, urine, and more using Notion. This is a tool that all biohackers should use, even on the free version. It is extremely well versed, easy to manage, and you can create functional notification systems that work using them.
Even though Notion gives them a run for their money, Google’s classic (and completely free — Notion’s is still super cheap 100% recommend buying) ecosystem still stands, and can be used in combination with notion for a biohacking power play. There are four main Google tools to subscribe to:
- Google Docs: Use this to write down and document, especially if you want more freedom in visual formatting than you get in Notion (though Notion offers more organization that is simpler).
- Google Sheets: Standardize your results in Notion here.
- Google Drive: Download your Notions as pdfs, and store them here + use it as a flow reference.
- Google Calendar: Schedule and set up notifications.
Together, all five of these products make for wicked beneficial biohacking for productivity, health, etc. products.
So, back to our circadian rhythm. It’s functional, complex, and extremely useful in hacking our bodies in ways we have never before.
One thing that’s important to note is that like Einstein said, time is relative. Even though our goal is constantly to standardize biology, its also important to recognize that biology is inherently personalized (unlike education! 😤).
Therefore, your biologically created clock isn’t necessarily going to abide by the same cycle as in the photo, or in blogs you read, like this one. It’s important that you start making edits to your life, and recording the results. Like, for example, changes in your diet, time of sleep, and even tracking your own biological cycles.
There are so many places to get yourself started, and one of the best places is google.com. As time goes on, you’ll see me building out my own products for people to customize their biology as well, so stay tuned!
However, as I’m researching and building in this space, I’m also realizing how bad society is at actually taking care of their bodies.
Including myself, we’ve all abused our bodies at some point. How to abuse your body:
- Drinking caffeine and hurting your bladder.
- Eating past 8 PM (guilty).
- Pleasure Eating.
- Not drinking enough water.
- Over eating.
- Under eating (guilty, oddly).
- Ignoring your body (guilty).
- Sleeping too much.
- Sleeping late (guilty, literally right now ☹️).
- Stressing ourselves out.
- Tampering with acne or scars.
- Getting hurt and not taking time to heal.
- Bad dieting.
- Not being active or playing sports.
- Following stupid trends like “purging”.
- Subconsciously straining your eyes with screens/not wearing protective eyewear when using screens for extended periods of time.
- Not making any change!
- Suppressing flatulence (lol, just try not to do that)/stomach issues causing abdominal distention.
- Suppressing *bathroom activities*.
- Too much juice.
- Allowing your throat to get dry and NOT actively trying to stop it.
- Give wrong answers to the doctor.
- Not documenting pains or aches you have.
- Not paying attention to your body.
Especially for women. You know, the stuff that most people would find “weird” for a 14-year-old boy to know, like periods, ovulation, etc.
But it’s all in the name of research, which gets a lot of people excited.
Though I have never experienced (and never will experience) these bodily fluctuations, my knowledge of them gives me a unique perspective as a male.
I do have two sisters, however, so I’ve had my fair share of witnessing fem-experiences, which has led me to research it myself.
If you’re still not convinced, come and watch my international talk at the WITI Global Summit (shameless plug) coming up.
What I’ve learned is that
Female biology is probably one of the most intriguing and functionally complex biological systems to date.
Because women have an entirely new clock that males don’t.
So, what’s this new clock? Well, its another rhythm called the Infradian Rhythm is an additional cycle possessed by 50% of the population that occurs beyond 24 hours. This means that the cycle doesn’t even occur every day, but instead every 28 days. This process is known as the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle begins in females around puberty, and sometimes earlier, ranging from ages 8–12 beginning in the early stage called menarche, and concludes with menopause, or the discontinuation of the cycle at about age 50. During the course of this 40 year, there are physiological changes that occur, which causes very clear differences between previous and current states of female biology. Not only is it physically present within the general body, but it has been proven that the menstrual cycle also affects neurochemistry.
It’s during this timeframe in which women are provided with unique strengths and weaknesses that define biohacking.
But there’s a third plot twist; another timer. It’s called the ultradian rhythm. Instead of being like the circadian rhythm — happening once per day — or the infradian rhythm — happening 0 times per day on a recurring basis — , the ultradian rhythm happens multiple times per day.
This is what the ultradian rhythm looks like ☝🏾. It’s a continuous cycle in sync, repeating the same arousal-high performance-stress-ultradian healing response- cycle every 110 minutes (~2 hours, 1 hour 50 minutes).
Unlike circadian or infradian rhythms, the ultradian rhythm clearly delineates points of high productivity, release, and an uptake of productivity. Your work is in its optimal state within a ninety minute window, and then optimal efficiency decrease after the 90 minutes is up. Its kind of like a burnout period. However, if we stop working, you can rejuvenate within a 20 minute period, and begin working again for another 90 minutes.
However, it’s important to note that as time goes on, there isn’t any change in the ultradian rhythm. In fact, there is no change or variation in the ultradian rhythm at all. Its completely constant, same with the others. The variation only occurs when the cycle is disrupted! Unfortunately, we tend to do that a whole lot.
This chronological trinity of rhythms informs the female body — together, the ultradian and circadian rhythms intertwine with the infradian rhythm to create the menstrual cycle.
Overviewing Female Biology and Health
This is the process, composed of large convolutions of biology and hormones, that allows for the reproduction and growth in the female. The menstrual cycle itself is often considered the “period”, a cycle reset by menstruation.
But menstruation != the menstrual cycle. There’s way more to it than just the period.
This is the point of menstruation (this is the period; click to make the photo bigger!):
- The egg is matured inside of the ovaries. The best egg for maturation is chosen out of hundreds of follicles (14 days).
- The best/dominant egg is sent through the egg pathway (fallopian tubes) to the uterus.
- The endometrium thickens and produces chemical and mucus forms.
- The egg is expelled. If pregnant, it meets a sperm from the male to develop the baby!
However, menstruation is merely one piece of a four piece puzzle that results in the entirety of the menstrual cycle itself. In fact, the period is essentially only the first part of the menstrual cycle. It is made up of two partially concurrent sub-cycles called the ovarian and uterine cycles, which together maintain the uterus and the ovaries, and create the menstrual cycle.
Therefore, the menstrual cycle is composed of four main phases and two instances 👇🏾
- Menstruation (Instance): Often painful, this is the shedding of the uterine lining that begins the menstrual cycle (3–7 days).
- Follicular Phase: This is the stage in which an egg is being prepared to get released, and occurs between menstruation and ovulation (7–10 days).
- Proliferative Phase: This is the regeneration after menstruation, where the uterine lining is created once again (4–6+ days).
- Ovulation (Instance): When eggs are released from the ovary (12–24 hours; egg dies in 24 hours if unfertilized).
- Luteal Phase: (If applicable) this is the preparation for pregnancy. Otherwise, this is just the space between ovulation and then re-menstruation (12–14 days).
- Secretory Phase: This is the phase in which the uterine lining produces important chemicals that allow for the lining to undergo menstruation, or bolsters the body in preparation for an early pregnancy.
This (below) is the female reproductive system that the cycle occurs in.
It’s kind of like a warehouse. The opening is the vagina (I cannot believe I just wrote that — never thought about this moment or article in a million years lol), the hallway is the cervix, the endometrium/uterine lining is the wall, the uterus (and endometrium)/womb is the main hall, and then there are smaller rooms called ovaries that is for egg-only guests, and can be reached through the fallopian tube hallways, through which the egg guests go to the uterus (main hall).
Therefore, this reproductive party can be sectioned into different halls that describe specialized functions in the female reproduction system. The entranceway is the cervix and vagina, which allow insertion and removals. The movement and circulation of eggs, is the packaging hall, and then the reproduction hall is the womb, comprised of the endometrium and uterus, which allows for the main event to occur, which is the development and birth of babies!
When the cycle is followed, there are clear hormonal changes that the female body undergoes. Integral hormones levels, like those of progesterone and estrogen constantly fluctuate over time.
Note that the cycle is split; the pre-ovulation step of the menstrual cycle contains the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle and menstruation and proliferative phase of the uterine cycle occur at the same time. First ~1/3 of the follicular phase, menstruation occurs, and then for the next ~2/3 of the follicular phase, the proliferative phase occurs. During this entire phase, levels of progesterone and estrogen are low, but close to the end of the follicular phase, estrogen rises.
During ovulation, estrogen reaches it peak thanks to the follicular phase, and then ultimately drops back down.
Then, after ovulation occurs, the post-ovulation step of the menstrual cycle takes place, in which the luteal phase of the ovarian cycle and the uterine phase of the secretory cycle take place. During the luteal phase, progesterone is produced rapidly, which also hits a peak before lowering as well.
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, then this is the standardized hormonal change for a female. However, in the case that a pregnancy happens, the female will skip a step of menstruation, not shedding the endometrium, and will instead produce a lot of estrogen — more than in their entire lifetime.
The production of estrogen in the female body means that vascularization of the placenta, the organ that feeds the currently unbirthed baby through the umbilical cord (basically a feeding tube that keeps the baby alive by pumping the mother’s nutrients to the body), and the uterus is increased. The production of blood vessels (which is vascularization) is optimized, thanks to the increased production of estrogen in the body.
Now that we understand each phase, let’s begin to break down each of the different integral parts into their bodily effects.
The start is menstruation, and the end is technically menstruation too, because it’s a cycle. This is the point where hormonal levels are the lowest, or they reset.
This reset is what causes premenstrual symptoms (PMS), which describes the painful part of the menstrual cycle (when not considering the later stage of pregnancy), such as bloating, cramps, pains, and more.
This is the 7 to 10-day process that occurs after menstruation.
If you remember from my previous article, the hypothalamus is a little pea shape that helps a lot of psychological response and links the nervous and endocrine systems together, keeping the body balanced. This hypothalamus in your brain stimulates the tiny pituitary gland, that serves as a nexus point to control and influence other endocrine glands.
The other glands in the system also produce other secondary hormones (aside from the third one):
parathyroid hormone (PTH) → parathyroid
thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) → thyroid gland
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or luteinizing hormone (LH) → ovaries
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) → adrenals
and yes, I can say all of these 😎
The reason the pituitary gland is stimulated is to produce another hormone called FSH, or the follicle-stimulating hormone (shown in the graph), though not in extremely high quantity when compared to other hormones. The FSH is delivered directly to the ovaries, which has hundreds (of thousands) of egg follicles, little packs of liquid, and once the dominant one is chosen, the FSH helps to continue to process of egg maturation. In maturation and choosing, the follicles get larger.
I would say that your (assuming the “you” is a female haha) ovaries have a pretty difficult time choosing which egg to pick, because there are over 300,000 different ones to choose from between the two ovaries! As the dominant follicle’s released for ovulation, it releases estrogen, the cause of the aforementioned peak of the hormone.
The reason the endometrium becomes thicker and is chemically changed is because the body, like with everything else it does, requires an extremely specific biochemical state for anything to work.
Within 3 to 4 days, ovulation occurs after the dominant egg swells up to about 3 cm. At this point, the follicle is the largest its ever been, and is producing a ton of estrogen, until it hits a limit and starts plateau and decrease. Once estrogen levels smack the roof, a new signal tells the brain to tell the body to start producing the luteinizing hormone in preparation for the luteal phase instead.
Then, the fallopian tubes transport the egg to the uterus, which now posses the optimal environment for the egg to move through. The thickness shouldn't be mistaken for roughness. The endometrium is now full of protective lining cells due to the previous increase in estrogen.
Following ovulation, a 10 to 14 day phase occurs, where the follicle with the egg inside, busts into a corpus luteum, which is a hormone-secreting globule made up out of cells.
The corpus luteum releases plenty of progesterone and little bit of estrogen. Once again, progesterone levels also hit the roof and stop going up at ½way through the process. When progesterone skyrockets, the production of FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH) cease as a resulting signal.
Estrogen also stays on a high, because the wonderful environment of the uterus and state of the endometrium is necessary to be maintained. The entire menstrual cycle is just the body acting as if it is going to have a baby, so the main hall is still expecting a fertilized guest.
If not, the corpos luteum is reabsorbed and unused.
A lot of these hormones produced are really important.
There are a variety of hormones, called the primaries, that are in high concentrations during some point of the menstrual cycle. They include progesterone, estrogen, FSH, LH, insulin, testosterone, and cortisol.
Together, these seven primary hormones in form the organization of female biology and its reproductive capabilities, and gives them advantages to be leveraged when biohacking.
To reiterate, a hormone is a substance that is produced by different structures within a organism and sent to specific cell sites or tissues in the body to either A.) regulate, B.) stimulate a function C.) stimulate cells specifically.
Progesterone is an important hormone that is heavily built up during the instance of ovulation. Progesterone stimulates the optimal thickening of the endometrium, as the uterine lining is required to have a wall of protective cells in case a fermented egg is headed to the uterus.
However, in most cases, there’s no baby/fertilized egg received, and the body continues to prepare for pregnancy over and over again until menopause. Since the fertilized egg typically isn’t received, the progesterone levels will dip down, and then chemicals are released to again prepare for endometrium to be shed away during menstruation.
You can think of progesterone and estrogen as a scale. When estrogen goes up, progesterone assumes levels that put estrogen and progesterone at an equilibrium so that the body doesn’t go way out of whack. The reason for this balance is that progesterone stimulates ease in the body, allowing it to rest, relax, enhance emotional state and sleep. Progesterone does not cause sleep, but rather strengthens processes that allow the body to take a break.
Estrogen, progesterone’s counterpart, does quite the opposite, which is what creates the counterbalance. As we already know, estrogen begins to start peaking during the follicular phase and during ovulation thanks to the egg follicles releasing it. Estrogen, though most prevalent in ovaries, can be traced around lipids and fatty cells. The reason for this is that estrogen is attracted to fats but repelled by water. Estrogen has also been found as a trace hormone in the adrenal gland as well.
As we already know, estrogen helps women prepare for pregnancy by thinking up their endometrium and stimulating this stronger wall made of protective guard cells. However, estrogen has a lot of other protective functions aside from building up the uterine lining.
Estrogen is not only is a primary in other processes, but can also prevent a variety of diseases, from high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis. However, estrogen, being so wide spread in the body, can also progress lethal disease, if in excess or recess, like osteoporosis and cancers (breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, endometrial). This is why it’s so necessary for the body to have a balance.
Estrogen also causes extensive physiology changes that aside from changing the walls of blood vessels. In fact, it increases the size of the pelvis laterally (increasing hip size), and stimulate the breasts to grow larger (this is one of the last things I thought I would ever say publicly). Estrogen also regulates cholesterol, an important lipid steroid in the body.
FSH is the hormone responsible for stimulating the growth of the egg follicles inside of the ovaries, and grows out the dominant follicle to its desired size. It is secreted by the pituitary gland. When ovarian follicles being maturation thanks to the brain’s gland releasing and increasing the amounts of FSH, the estrogen levels in the body are also increased as the follicles balloon up.
A lack of FSH is not good news. Follicles will not grow and the woman will become infertile. Too much FSH can cause menstrual difficulties in women, lowered libido, and early or delayed puberty in children.
And yes, libido = desire for intimacy. However, its not in a weird way, its apart of our biological code. At a young age — like 14 — libido is low. However, as the hormone testosterone stimulates the release of dopamine, a “happy” neurotransmitter at the nucleus accumbens, a region at the surface of the forebrain, and the association stimulates the desire. However, sex hormones and biology aren’t the only causes of libido. In fact, natural libido becomes immoral and twisted typically because of environmental/social factors.
Anyway, a lack or excess of FSH in the female can stop that 👆🏾.
Then, if no FSH is produced and freed into the body, the imbalance can also mean pain, because the uterine lining will not thicken and no big dominant follicle will be grown. Recall that an uptake of estrogen is a derivative of the uptake in FSH. More FSH causes more estrogen and some progesterone to be produced, so without FSH, the menstrual cycle is kind of cut short.
As we already know, LH and FSH are related to one another, and are both released in similar ways: via the pituitary gland site and near, but before, or during ovulation. LH is what causes the now 2–3cm big dominant egg to burst into a corpus luteum instead. After this change, the once-egg-follicle then begins to release estrogen and progesterone (because what doesn’t in the menstrual cycle?).
So if the luteinizing hormone levels are out of sync in the body, nothing good comes out of it. In fact, it can cause something called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. This is when multiple cysts form painfully on a singular ovary. Nearly 10% of all women undergo this. Ouch!
A lot of LH can cause random ovulation and cause the follicles to grow, but zero movement to the fallopian tube and ultimately to the uterus. Therefore, infertility is caused. Speaking of fertility, LH in men is also important, as it causes the testicles in men to make testosterone, creating sexual compatibility (another sentence I thought I’d never share on the internet…) between the male and the female.
If you know of or have diabetes, you’ve probably heard of insulin, and possibly take insulin. In diabetics, this hormone is deficient, which has different effects on the body, especially with regard to blood sugar. Insulin is also an important hormone in the menstrual cycle.
When you chomp down some pasta, inhale a macaroni and cheese, or eat anything that’s fast food, you’re biting down and swallowing and combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen called a carbohydrate. When you are doing this, your body takes what you’re eating a refines in down into its basic sugar form, called a monosaccharide. The specific monosaccharide that is created in this case is glucose, a sugar containing six molecules of carbon (hexose).
As glucose leaks into our blood, the pancreas releases insulin, which guides the glucose to somatic cells in our bodies so we can make energy! Insulin allows glucose to balance blood sugar. When insulin levels are aren’t calibrated, there is a discrepancy in blood sugars, which can lead to diabetes, and also affects on fertility and the quality of menstruation.
Testosterone is a hormone that’s consistently associated with males, but it has a pretty important tie-in with females. We already know what the high buildup of testosterone does for us males (e.g: stimulating physical growth, inducing libido, blood vessel control, creating viable sperm), but what do its low levels in the female body do?
Well, it basically does the same thing it does for the male, except in regulated and less proliferative concentrations. It commonly works in tandem with estrogen to stimulate growth and repair of reproductive tissues, bone mass and muscle, and also libido. However, too much testosterone can cause adverse effects, and even disproportional muscularity and growth, affecting health, and can even distort libido.
A mouthful of a structure called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the adrenal gland controls how much cortisol is released. Cortisol is considered to be the “stress” hormone, which builds up during the follicular phase of the cycle.
Cortisol helps to increase sugar in the bloodstream for the brain to leverage at an enhanced rate, which frees up more opportunity for tissue regeneration. However, Cortisol is not a hormone that ever meant to be in high concentrations within the body.
Low cortisol isn’t super common, and has some effects on the menstrual cycle. However, high cortisol levels can be lethal, stopping ovulation, causing progesterone loss, infertility, and more disruptions to the female reproductive system.
So, let’s summarize with a pictorial TL;DR.
So, why is any of this important? Why did you just spend the past 10+ minutes digesting all of these diagrams I made or read my thoughts splattered on a (virtual) paper? Why trust me if I’m a male?
Well, I’ve hinted at the first two questions, and already answered the last one. Female health is important. I have three females in my family. Female biohacking is awesome.
Fembio and Its Results
The female physiology, though complex and oftentimes painful, describes some behavioral and cognitive functions that make it easily optimizable with biohacking. Using the tools that were desribed, like Notion and Google Tools, females can start using their hormonal changes to their advantage.
There are four main effects that the cycles have on behavior and neurological patterns:
During the instance of menstruation, women and girls are more inclined to deep introspective and personal thought. This is also a period (literally) that causes pain. It’s recommended that during this time, women try to understand what makes them happy, and where they find comfort.
Its also allegedly a good time (sometimes) to gorge weird food combinations, but I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, as for biohacking, its important that women focus on what they want to see happen in their lives, and just try to think more about themselves than other people, and focus less on the possibly associated pain. In addition, this time optimizes personal evaluation, allowing females to understand the things they take place in and what value they get.
Overall, menstruation is neurologically stimulating and (most times) physically painful, so its best spent with support, but for a majority of the time, alone, which will allow the brain to rest, and allow for the opportunity to take a break from life’s pace and think.
However, it’s also during this time that the left and right hemispheres of the brain are closest in synch. Because of this, is also strongly advised that one doesn’t just sit around, but also leverages their enhanced intellectual capacity for the 3 to 7 days that menstruation occurs.
This is the phase of the menstrual cycle that optimizes for creativity and mental development. During this phase, estrogen concentrations increase, meaning that neural activity also spikes. It’s during the follicular phase that women are inclined to have increased memory, and neural capacity.
The follicular phase of the menstrual cycle means hormonal transformations. Fortunately, these transformations mean that the body is more in tune for creativity, ideas, and flowing. Honestly, if you’re a female during the follicular phase trying to come up with a product idea, business plan, etc., this is a perfect time to brainstorm and overcome a problem. Use it to the fullest.
Start something: plan for your future, work on a really hard consulting project, begin thinking deep thoughts, take a dive into philosophy and try to answer/just ponder on some existential questions.
As long as it fits in a one week to ten day window and requires some deep thinking and creativity, take it up and crush it (during the follicular phase)!
Again, during ovulation, there’s almost an entire stream of weekdays (3 to 4) filled with creativity and a synaptic boost. Because estrogen is reaching a peak at this time, female astuteness and awareness is at an all time high. Sometimes, the extent of the senses are also magnified. It’s like a super power. Even communication and clarity is enhanced.
In addition, the female body’s physical reservers are also heightened, boosting the ultradian rhythm and allowing work periods longer than 90 minutes, and not requiring as many breaks or need for ultradian regeneration. Longer work periods means more efficiency.
So, during the instance of ovulations, females are biohacking when they do more difficult physical or mental labor than they would typically do, or even socializing and making presentations and talking to people, because this is also optimized.
As we know, the luteal phase is when the dominant follicle bursts into the corpus luteum structure and releases progesterone. This creates a streamlined neural direction that optimizes focus. Menstrual cycle influence on cognitive function and emotion processing shows that the luteal phase creates compulsion to become busier and more detailed.
In addition to an increase in attention and sense, there will also be a craving for closure. To start something and complete it holistically. This type of desire could easily be directed towards work, and present a huge advantage to the female in their luteal phase.
From the perspective of biohacking, it’s during this time that a female should be working and focused on working on a project that has been going on for a long time.
It’s clear that the menstrual cycle and female biology just presents inherent advantages from these biological changes. However, another thing that body hacking — and female biohacking especially — can do is fortify current health standards.
How and Why to Biohack if You’re a Female
As you can see, women are heavily disenfranchised when in comes to public health and diagnosis. Not understanding the factors and possibilities of different diseases and how they interact with female physiology have led to a lack of proper and efficient treatments.
This all stems from a lack of female representation in clinical trials, meaning most systems are designed for males. However, this underrepresentation could possibly be assuaged with biohacking.
Biohacking has the possibility to become an indispensable tool when combatting different diseases, as it simply collects information, which doctors can build off of. This is why having many more women, and just people in general, biohack will be so important in creating the hospitals, medicines, and surgeries of the future.
When you combine female biohacking (body hacking specifically for females) with femtech (the development of technology products made for females), there are some pretty awesome results. However, the space of femtech itself is still undergoing revamp.
However, there are still so many things that women can do to stay on top of their bodily occurrences. And that’s simply just tracking and implmenting.
- Fully tracking circadian, infradian, and ultradian rhythms — find out what their graphs look like online, and refer to this article as well.
- Not just simply cutting out carbohydrates, but rather understand which foods have which effects that are best for dieting and also leave you feeling good. You actually need carbohydrates for estrogen production.
- Knowing about your period. Know the different colors of blood there are, what they each mean, and why they happen.
- Get sleep (for reasons that are just too obvious). Understand REM.
- Watch not only what you eat and drink, but what you eat and drink out of. It has been shown that eating and drinking out of too many plastics can cause the buildup of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are toxic to the female body.
- Make sure to spreadsheet everything, or keep it organized on paper.
Don’t forget, I’m also working on building my biohacking for all MVP on the side for fun, which both men and women will be able to create if they’d like.
Biohacking isn’t just personalizing and understanding your health in a way that benefits you, but its also making investments to further to goal of treating your body well. If you’re a female, check out this article detailing nearly 10 inventions made by women, for women, that could change your life and make it healthier.
Flo highlights seven key biohacking get-starters for women:
Biohack #1: Cycle sync your food
Eating to ease period problems requires synching your weekly meal plans with your 28-day cycle.
If the idea of switching up what you eat each week feels challenging, start with my 4-Week Flo Food Challenge.
Biohack #2: Cycle sync your exercise
To really optimize your hormonal health, you should shift your workouts to fit your cycle in much the same way as you do your diet.
Biohack #3: Detox the RIGHT way
If you suffer from hormone imbalances and period problems, it can be tempting to do an extreme detox. [no]
Biohack #4: Be very careful with intermittent fasting (if you do it at all)
Studies suggest that intermittent fasting can be very helpful for women (and men) with compromised cellular health, but for women in generally good health who are working to balance hormones and heal hormone-related symptoms, I don’t recommend fasting.
Biohack #5: Don’t default to the ketogenic diet
Here’s where this biohack becomes sex specific: thyroid problems disproportionately affect women. It’s estimated that one in five women have a thyroid issue, and many of those cases are undiagnosed. If you’re trying to bring your hormones into balance, your best bet is to eat in line with your cycle — and leave the ketogenic diet for individuals with other health issues.
Biohack #6: Ditch coffee
Caffeine is a no-go for women who want to optimize hormone health.
Biohack #7: Supplement like a Girl 💊
Women have unique micronutrient needs, and [they] can’t expect optimal hormonal health — or optimal overall health — when [they] follow blanket supplement prescriptions. [They] need supplements tailored to our unique female physiology. Specifically:
vitamins like thiamine (B1) is inversely related to endometriosis.
Another important type of B vitamin, folic acid, is known to be important in managing PCOS.
Magnesium is a must for women with hormone imbalances since it improves insulin sensitivity.
If you’re suffering with fibroids or any hormone-related health condition, vitamin D is an absolute must.
Probiotics are a must.
Many woman can implement these simple and quick tips, and I highly recommend you do so, and record the results, because why not?! You’ll be able to quantify what you got from it, and whether or not to keep going.
This actually brings me to a top book recommendation for female biohacking: In The Flo. It’s a really interesting read that highlights the importance of leveraging hormones to gain a physiological profit as a female. While I jumped around the book to learn all about biohacking and give some actionable tips to my sisters, if you’re a female, I’d definitely recommend reading it through and gaining a lot of value from it! Alisa Vitti did a great job with writing this.
So now, I hope you truly understand why I say this:
Biohacking is not a crime, but the future.
Even separately, synbio hacking and fem biohacking have huge implications in driving industries forward, and creating a self-sustaining public health system that could completely disrupt the way we’ve been looking at our lives for so long.
Many breakthroughs we have are things that we find naturally, like having “golden” blood (its this really special still red blood that can donate to any blood type), HeLa cells (this was a bad and very racist experimentation process, but Henrietta Lacks’ cells have played huge roles in radiation therapy discoveries), or CRISPR and Cas9 were all things found in the human body that were then leveraged.
Biohacking is the next step of standardizing biology, and democratizing it.
With biohacking, the skills to do so are distributed. So, not only could this practice create a new wave of cognizance that inspires healthy lifestyles, but it could also catalyze innovation. But why did I have to refute Oxford Dictionary’s definition? Why do I say that it’s not a crime? It’s because of the fact that biohacking has been all the craze, and like anything, when its put under a media spotlight, it’s negatively scrutinized.
To conclude, we’re not going to talk about what biohacking is or how it works in a new context, but rather what the ethical and social dilemma of biohacking is, and how it’s going to be addressed.
III. Breakdown on Biohacking.
So, there’s a huge argument that arises when considering biohacking. In fact, if we look at the Oxford Language Dictionary’s definition of it, it reads:
The activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally without regard to accepted ethical standards, or for criminal purposes.
Even not considering the last part reading “criminal purposes”, the beginning says “without regard to accepted ethical standards”. However, if you consider what biohacking inherently does, its personal. It’s not typically interpersonal, or even relative. Biohacking should be considered a personal practice.
However, let’s break down the importance of ethics. If you think about everything we do, it’s always on some sort of basis. We base law on framework, so we should base ethics on framework. Therefore, different frameworks aren’t applicable in different contexts.
So, saying biohacking isn’t ethical on the basis of traditional lab experiments doesn’t really make sense. That’s like going into North Korea, but still following US laws. Both of these laws are completely different, and have a variety of similarities.
Therefore, what’s necessary is that we instead start crafting specialized regulations instead of operating on current assumptions. I personally think what’s most important is creating regulations on self experimentation, and enlisting biohackers to actually craft and explain the necessary ethical policy.
Just a year ago, the first US law that targeted biohacking was passed.
In June 2019, California passed the first law in the United States targeting ‘biohacking’, the practice of do-it-yourself gene editing. Starting in January 2020, it will be illegal to sell CRISPR gene therapy kits without warnings that they are not safe to self-administer.
However, this quote itself is a clear depiction of the misconception of biohacking. Biohacking isn’t necessarily the practice of gene editing from home, biohacking is just the practice of doing biology at home.
There shouldn’t necessarily be regulations on the product, but also the practice. This is an extremely important note. The hunting down of biohacking is becoming practically comical, where authorities are chasing a real-life biohacker! The age of biohacking is becoming more widespread, and as that happen, we need to start implementing laws and standards surrounding the practice itself.
The next thing I realized is that the public perception of biohacking is toxic. The reason for this is the difficulty of discerning when and why you should begin to trust things you see on the internet.
I was browsing other writings on this, and I found a site called futurism.com, where I’m going to spend all of my free credits before subscribing, binging the biohacking ethical breakdown.
To be honest, I’ve found that there’s a common denominator behind all of these ethical conversations:
What interesting is that he’s actually Dr. Josiah Zayner. He has a Ph.D in biophysics (2013) from the University of Chicago. A very respectible school with a very respectible degree. You could say that he knows what he’s doing (and he does).
He’s the founder of Odin, and one of the main biohackers that have been under scrutiny recently, since he performed his own fecal transplant and injected himself (on a live stage) with CRISPR.
His actions are… unconventional.
But nevertheless, he inspires me. His willingness to take risks, and his desire to go further to make science accessible is admirable. While I don’t advocate for everybody to go out and inject themselves, I do advocate for people to watch his videos, learn from him, and ultimately take their own next steps. Do what you’re comfortable with, and be careful.
I would like to reiterate that Josiah Zayner advocates for exploration and no holding back, but he never explicitly tells people to inject themselves. Not only is that actually illegal, but I believe he’s also aware of the ethical extent of the practice, and chooses to altruistically perform experimentation on himself, rather than others. From a philosophical perspective, this could actually be considered to be a moral decision.
But that’s a whole other argument.
The point is that biohacking isn’t outlawed, and it won’t be anytime soon. While in the US, legislation and our new President seem to be taking the correct next steps (argue with me if you’d like) in appointing more scientists to lead an informed and accurate step towards public policy, delegation, health, and of course, biohacking.
However, even with the tumultuous history behind it, biohacking is still popular. In fact, the concept itself has been used in a variety of shows and characters, like in CW’s the Flash, and even in documentaries.
My friend Ana Sofia sh has also laid out her thoughts in her article: Biohacking in Netflix?!?!. She also thought it was awesome — and gave me inspiration to write this part of my article with this format (and some of the synbio designs, too!). Check her’s out too!
Now that we’re at an inflection point of the DIY movement, biohacking is even becoming popularized into drama shows and fully fledged stories featuring the concept of DIY biology. A perfect example of this is Netflix’s show Biohackers.
Now that companies like Netflix are also following the biohacking space, it’s sure to have an uptake in its number of supporters and skeptics even more.
In an effort to not spoil the show for you without giving a warning, here’s what it’s about:
A medical student enters a top German university on a secret mission to uncover a conspiracy linking a family tragedy to a biology professor.
A pretty vague description, but if rats that glow like jellyfish due to the presence of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) sounds interesting, I would definitely recommend it. 100% worth the watch.
As huge fan of biotech, I was really invested in this show as apart of my “research” 😏. And biohackers isn’t the only series that’s bringing biotech to the big screen. Things like Unnatural Selection and Human Nature are increasing in popularity as they explore and break down the fundamentals of biology, and invoke conversation at its deepest level.
It’s also cool that the entire show is in German, so wenn du kein deutsch sprechen kannst, you’re going to have to enable CC translation subtitles on Netflix.
However, this brings the ethical conversation back up. Some of the topics and ideas explored in biohackers convey the underlying threat of evil using biohacking and taking advantage of it to use it for personal gains to hurt others. Again, this is why I argue that policy regulations should cover implementation of biohacking in practice and not in product.
Biohacking is more dependent on the person than the thing. Depending on the biohacker’s frame of mind, the outcome can be the same or different. It’s more important to look at the factors which influence the outcome, than the outcome itself. In doing so, we can easily see that the solvency is restriction with qualification.
Though, I still feel like some biohackers, like Dr. Zayner, should be allowed to go a little wild!
Anyway — SPOILER WARNING. I’m about to reveal information all about the biohackers series, which is one of the best series covering both body hacking and synbio hacking, so stay tuned if you don’t care about having it spoiled (like me!). Also, just for reference, I won’t be using any photos in this section, so that when you hopefully watch the show, you won’t know everything.
If you’ve watched biohackers already, feel free to drop what you liked about it in the Medium chat!
It’s an interesting concept with interesting characters.
Mia: Emma, or Mia (which is her undercover name) is the ultra-smart “medical student” trying to oust the sketchy professor lady — I’ll elaborate more on this later.
Lorenz: An absolute unicorn person. She is the boss lady CEO with a full blown lab in her basement, and is also a huge immunology and gene editing researcher, working on ways to engineer organisms that are immune to virtually any disease. She’s also a professor at one of the best research/doctoral institutions in the world, of course.
Jasper: This is Lorenz’s favorite, most trusted student, and an undercover biohacker. As per shows go, he just has to fall in love with the main character, and vice versa. He even has his own secret laboratory to build his biohacking experiments and re-sequence genomes for a variety of effects. He has a “roommate”, Niklas.
Niklas: That one kid studying sociology at one of the top research institutions, and that’s awesome. He’s unique, and also a latent good-guy in the story.
Ole: The awesome Dr. Zayner of the story. He’s a fully fledged biohacker, injecting nanosensors into his skins, attempting to experiment with his genome, and even creating substances to alter his physiology, and ingesting them. Aside from that, he’s very active on his social media — keeping everyone update on how his self-injections are going haha lol.
Chen Lu: Your typical smarty pants that’s still a nice human being. She knows a lot about computational biology and the CRISPR-Cas9 system. A pretty zealous bio-olympian!
Emma also has other friends, like Lotta, who are really just side characters, and/or live in an apartment with her.
The plot of biohackers is actually quite simple. It depicts a complex web of lies and a partial revenge story. When Emma/Mia was young, her brother passed in a clinical trial conducted by Professor Lorenz, who was trying to develop a panacea, and was doing human testing.
Upon realizing that Dr. Lorenz was responsible, Emma is determined to prove her guiltiness by enrolling in the German University and studying under Lorenz by taking her courses, which affords her the opportunity to get closer to Lorenz, and uncover her secrets. To create a connection to Lorenz, Emma befriends and actually starts to like Jasper, but is in reality with him for the intention of getting close enough to use him.
In staying in the apartment and so well connected with the university, Emma begins getting insights to the other clandestine activities that are going on there, like biohacking for example.
Fun fact: the story aims to reminisce on the growing force of DIY biology, as its actually against the law in many parts of Europe. It’s almost trying to say that the force of this factor is exploding, and uncontrollable, even when it’s banned.
When she starts learning more about Lorenz, and gets some new friends, she begins to meet all of these super impressive biology students that are also involved in biohacking activities.
As time goes on and Emma starts getting closer to revealing the truth, each character’s loyalties to either ethics or Lorenz’s biohacking are revealed. Amid the climactic bio-struggle, they cause the area to break out in an epidemic, which they are able to prevent by leveraging their labs’ technologies. Emma and Niklas are ultimately forced to betray Jasper to prove Lorenz’s guiltiness.
And now, a season 2 is being heavily anticipated by fans.
Context + My Take
As we approach the future, and get closer and closer to it, I believe that there’s going to be a larger concentration on ethics, rather than the technology itself. Most conversations that require the most thought is how these systems are going to be regulated. Howe they’re going to ensure that we’re not just allowing people to go crazy and do whatever they want.
I think that Biohackers, the series, tries to convey this message in a way that is polarizing to let the viewer make their own conclusion. While biohacking, an illegal activity where they are, does result in all of these issues, it's also able to solve the problems it creates.
But is this ethical? Is being able to clean up your mess something that you should be able to do, or something that is nice if you can do?
I think of it almost like a baby. Biohacking is still in its infantile stage, so when it throws up or drops something, it’s not to the point where it can immediately be solved.
However, we’re now XXI. We’re on the brink of something very exciting, and it’s super close by. But we have to take into account the people coming along for the ride for the wrong reasons, and the people with the desirable outcome, but a bad process.
Again, looking at the factors, rather than the outcome, is the name of the game.
Overall, though, the show was good. They don’t do too much by overdoing the extent of biohacking, or by painting the picture of a Xanadu in biohacking, and still keep in mind logical topics such as body hacking and CRISPR.
Something nice to appreciate is the fact that they offer an outlet where the future can be appreciated, but not overdone. They clearly and properly cover both elements of biohacking that we talked about in sections 1 and 2, while also taking its applications another step further.
They turn biohacking from something that’s cool to something that’s relevant, and introduce the threats to such an important future.
Furthermore, the concept of a villain was really interesting. Lorenz wasn’t the typical villain trying to commit an evil act, but she was instead making an active effort to cure disease. I think that the Director is trying to project what he thinks that the future threats of biohacking will be, and again affirms my statement, which I’ll say for the thousandth time:
Look at the factors, not the outcome. The policy should be based on people, not the product. An ethical framework requires efficacy.
I’m really trying to stress the importance of this here. Lorenz was on a good mission to save the world, and actually rid it of all disease. But at the same time, Lorenz was trying to determine how great her genetic product would be by testing it on other people, which killed them.
So, if you kill people to save people, is it ok? Is it overall good? What does philosophy say about this?
Depends on who you ask. That’s a hard question, and though I have some answers, I want to leave it to you to weigh the impacts and decide for yourself.
Though the concept of an all-cure might seem a little unrealistic, the concept of biohacking is creating an unpredictable future that’s a lot closer than we think. It was great to be able to see some of this show, and share my two cents (actually, instead of cents, it was great to share my adenine and cytosine LOL).
The impacts of this show are actually kind of hard to understand, but here were the review ratings:
Honestly, not even bad!
It’s clear that a majority of people liked this show, and that means some big things for biohacking, meaning increased popularity, and possibly more biohackers emerging across the globe.
Years ago, we had the Scientific Revolution, which led us into a deep philosophical and scientific movement separate from religion.
Over the course of previous history, scientific advancements have proven to be perceived as a threat by those in power. The precipice of such a viewpoint was during the mid-16th century, when the scientific revolution first began. The movement was largely fueled by the death that religious conflicts, such as the Crusades (1095–1492), had wrought. In an effort to steer the mind away from the effects of religious leadership, civilians — especially residents of European countries — began supporting studies in the fields of philosophy, metaphysics, cosmology, and astrophysics, all of which were scientific disciplines heavily geared towards understanding the universe outside of the belief in God that had previously dominated people’s understanding of the world.
At the heart of the revolution was an Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, and a Polish mathematician, Nicolaus Copernicus, who each contributed their breakthroughs to the Scientific Revolution. Interestingly, scientific advancements and emerging knowledge that are used currently were refuted by the Catholic Church during the 16th and 17th centuries. However, in numerous instances, the science didn’t agree with traditional doctrine, which led to authority being challenged, and the attempt to silence the voices of the movement. The rapid development of scientific knowledge that wasn’t in alignment with the Catholic church caused conflict that led the Church to exercise their power and silence the voices of the scientific revolution.
To preface, the inverse relationship between science and religion in the Catholic church did not necessarily exist before the scientific revolution. Aristotle (384 BC — 322 BC), who was viewed as the “father of science” was in good relationship with the church, due to his theories and beliefs staying outside the domain of challenging dominant beliefs. It was because Aristotelian views of planetary motion and writings in Physics directly agreed with the church, speaking on the principles of relativity and geocentrism, which was believed by the Catholics. In addition, his publishings in Metaphysics directly agreed with Catholics’ views of happiness and the principles of life. Due to the Catholic Church being in agreement, Aristotle’s scientific findings were believed until they were refuted by the scientific revolution in the late 1500s. Though it can be said that Aristotle was cautious of the Catholic church, and carefully aligned his publishings and believes to their views, his indulgence in aligning both science and religion, depicts how the Catholic church was able to use science for their strengthening, but rebelled against it when it was not in their favor.
Around 1530, Nicolaus Copernicus published his manuscript titled On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, in which he presented his theory of heliocentrism, an astronomical model that placed the sun in the center of the universe, as opposed to the current geocentric model, affirmed by the Catholic church due to their doctrinal belief that God placed Earth in the center of the universe as a testament to the humans he created in his image. Due to what the Catholic church perceived to be an aggression towards their standardized beliefs, they began to address Copernicus’ theory, which was later affirmed by Galileo in the early 1600s. Cardinal Bellarmine of the Inquisition, an institution based out of the Catholic Church, wrote a letter in the early 1600s to Paolo Anotonio Foscarini, who was the leader of the Carmelites, a group of powerful friars, in a document titled Attack on the Copernican Theory. Bellarmine, after addressing Foscarini with great respect, argued that Copernicus’, and now Galileo’s school of thinking insinuated that, “the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sics motionless at the center of the world.” He then continued to plead for a ban, saying to Foscarini, “consider now, with your sense of prudence, whether the Church can tolerate giving Scripture a meaning contrary to the Holy Fathersand to all the Greek and Latin commentators.” Shortly after this essay, Copernicus’ book was banned, depicting how Copernicus posthumously affected and challenged the Catholic church with his theory.
As Galileo became more heavily recognized by the European community, he caught the attention of the Catholic church by supporting and furthering Copernicus’ theories on the movement of the planets in the solar system, which — as previously mentioned — led to the ban of Copernicus’ works in the Catholic church, which was extended throughout Europe. However, Galileo, still being alive, continually challenged the church with his affirmations on the Copernican theory, despite it being banned. It was because of this unwavering commitment to astronomical truth that Galileo was forced to turn himself into the Holy Office by the Roman Catholic Church in 1633. His experience in trial was documented in Galileo’s 4 Depositions, where Galileo’s answers to all of the questions asked in the presence of Reverend Maculano of Firenzuola in Rome were transcripted. Throughout the trial, Galileo appears calm and remains truthful about his works. He then proceeds to defend himself, admitting that he doesn’t believe in heliocentrism, and that he published Dialogue on the Two World Systems to regard Copernicus’ beliefs. In his dialogue, Galileo breaks down the workings of heliocentrism and geocentrism without disclosing his own personal belief in geocentrism. Though Galileo was furthering Copernicus’ works, he claims that he was doing so to discover whether or not it was true in his third deposition during trial. However, at the conclusion of his trial, Galileo was found guilty of heresy, and due to his old age, was placed under house arrest until his death in 1642. Galileo’s ultimate imprisonment was proof of the Catholic church’s unwillingness to compromise, even under circumstances where their views were agreed upon. It reflects the Catholic church’s lack of tolerance, and the conflict that was caused by mere scientific dialogue as well.
This isn’t a bash on the Catholic Church, but its a depiction of how and why church and state are separated, and why countries like America take pride in separating the two.
While I believe that the two can not only coexist, but also amalgamate. However, their separation is what causes people to feel the need to take sides, and choose science over religion or religion over science.
And history often repeats itself, just in different ways and expressions. I believe that the biohacking revolution will be one of those ways.
Just looking at the pushback against current legislative ruling not in favor biohacking indicate to me that there will be another line drawn, where people begin protesting with experiments, and forming organizations dedicated to preserving the culture of biohacking and keeping it alive for as long as possible.
I think this is what the Biohackers show is hinting at: this culture of secretive labs, unethical testing, and new forms of biology in the 21st century that we’re even fathomable in previous decades, let alone previous centuries! I can say for sure that once a senolytic human longevity treatment is FDA approved, I’ll be one of the first to be getting so I can live on, and see what’s up with biohacking 100 years from now!
IX. In Closing…
Overall, I’m sure that the future of biohacking will be really stellar, and I hope you think so too. It’s become increasingly clear to me that as we start getting to know nature more, and begin leveraging other technology and combining them with biological systems, we’re getting closer and closer to where the future is going.
Where it’s not just one or two cool innovations, but our world runs on all that is organic.
It’s not just something awesome and exciting that we’re on the verge of experiencing, but it’s also a social movement that invites all people of diverse backgrounds to join in on.
We’re in the age of taking our old systems, and being able to create entirely new ones (synbio) or optimize them (body hacking) to build out anything we can imagine, without ever having to start from scratch.
We have such a unique advantage, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of its possibilities. That’s why I enjoyed writing about this so much.
What’s most interesting is that the very thing that composes us, the very thing we take for granted the most, could be the exact thing that completely changes our lives.
Biology. What a gift.
Before you go…
My name is Okezue Bell, and I’m a 14 y/o innovator/entrepreneur investing my time in researching and developing myself in the super interesting biotech and bioeng space!
I’m currently focusing my efforts in alternative protein and artificial intelligence, working with some of the leading companies as an advisor, project manager, and interning and building for some awesome startups. .
If you want to hear more from me, I post a newsletter every month, speak at events, do research and projects, YouTube, I have a podcast called VZIN, and I post here quite often, so follow me if you want to get notified on these articles! Also, give this one some claps if you thought it was good!