Science 4 min read

Mad Science: David Ishee And His Open Source DIY Gene Hacking

Production Perig /

Production Perig /

What if you could become leaner and more muscular without working out, changing your diet, or cosmetic surgery? What if you only had to introduce new genes into your cells to express the hormone that you want? That was what David Ishee did.

Sounds like an expensive way to lose a few pounds, right? Yes, it is; but not for long.

Thanks to David Ishee’s open source gene therapy project, gene editing could become as easy as an injection to the stomach. Simply put, Ishee’s mad science could reduce millions of dollars worth of gene therapy into a simple DIY kit.

“Gene editing and genetic engineering shouldn’t have to be a product,” Ishee said. With his open-source DIY gene hacking project, the genetic engineer intends to bring gene editing to the average folks.

Let’s begin with an introduction, shall we?

Who is David Ishee?

David Ishee is a genetic engineer from Mississippi, who first came into the limelight back in 2016 when he decided to biohack mastiff puppies to make them glow in the dark. To do this, he joined a growing number of DIY gene hackers and built a lab in his garage that’s capable of basic genetic engineering.

That was three years ago. Now, Ishee has shifted from breeding glowing puppies into a lofty goal of making genetic engineering accessible to everyone.

Basically, he wants to teach anyone – with or without a college degree – how to take advantage of genetic engineering in their daily lives.

In a recent video, the biohacker performed open source gene therapy on himself to alter his metabolism and ultimately have a leaner and more muscular form.

The Open Source Gene Hacking Project

David Ishee felt he was overweight. Not only was he not exercising, but he also adhered to a strict “eat whatever you want, whenever you want” diet. Rather than hit the gym like an average person, Ishee thought like a biohacker.

“I figured, if you’ve got the tool to do genetic engineering, why not,” said Ishee, in his video.

He got on his computer and wrote an instruction – a permanent genetic change that would alter his metabolism.

Using the instructions, Ishee created molecules that contain both viral and chromosomal elements. With the viral sequence, the molecules can get into the nucleus of his cells.

The chromosomal element from the human genome makes the body recognize the synthesized molecule as a native piece of DNA.

Ishee wrote that:

“There are no bacterial genetic elements, and it’s not plasmid, but it is naked DNA. The closest description is it’s a small human artificial chromosome with the gene of interest FST344 loaded on it. It doesn’t integrate into the host genome.”

According to the genetic engineer, the molecules express follistatin 334, a hormone which serves as an inhibitor. When injected in mice, it increased not only their muscle mass, but also their heart health and longevity.

Upon successful animal testing, Ishee decided to take the next step. He injected the molecule into himself.

With any luck, the DNA would go into the nucleus and share the same lifetime as the cell. And, since he targeted long-lived cells that survive as long as ten years, the treatment should be long-term.

Did the Gene Editing Treatment Work?

It’s too early to tell. But the end section of the video shows the genetic engineer, a couple of weeks and several larger doses later. He recorded a slight increase in muscle mass alongside a decrease in stomach size, without changing his diet.

While this seems like a promising result, the genetic engineer is still skeptical. But, if the gene therapy treatment proves effective, it could be a game changer.

“If all this works I’ll compile everything into an open source method for permanent DIY gene therapy covering everything from building the bioreactor to evaluating results,”  Ishee wrote. 

In the end, anyone with access to the right apparatus will be able to alter their metabolism using gene editing.

Read More: Scientists Successfully use CRISPR Gene Therapy on Patient

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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    Pablo Martínez November 13 at 6:13 am GMT

    Very cool article!

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