Finding a Regulatory Balance for Genetic Biohacking

Christi Guerrini, Jacob S. Sherkow, Patricia J. Zettler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


“Biohacking” has emerged as a cultural and scientific phenomenon. Although there is no consensus on the precise definition of “biohacking,” the term generally describes biological investigations and interventions that are conducted outside of typical scientific settings by individuals who may not have traditional scientific training. Easier access to biological information and resources has enabled biohacking to flourish. Its participants often describe their activities as motivated by a belief in a right to “do science,” a high value placed on bodily autonomy, and a view that traditional scientific institutions and regulations have systematically failed to benefit society. At the same time, the November 2018 announcement that a scientist in China used CRISPR to genetically modify viable human embryos — allegedly resulting in the birth of the first “CRISPR babies” — has reinvigorated concerns about the distribution of genetic technologies. For genetic biohacking, these concerns may be heightened by a belief that mechanisms to regulate the activity are absent or inadequate to address its risks. But, as this chapter details, genetic biohacking is likely subject to numerous oversight mechanisms, both public and private. Before calling for additional regulations, these extant mechanisms should be evaluated.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConsumer Genetic Technologies
Subtitle of host publicationEthical and Legal Considerations
EditorsI. Glenn Cohen, Nita A. Farahany, Henry T. Greely, Carmel Shachar
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108874106
ISBN (Print)9781108836616, 9781108812672
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • biohacking
  • autonomy
  • regulation
  • FDA
  • biology

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