In April 2015 I was sitting around thinking. I like to sit around and think. And I began to wonder how genetic engineering technologies would be used in the future. I imagined a world in which people sought out genetic designers on craigslist and made a speculative post there just out of pure curiosity. Well the post was found and ended up going viral.
This lead to me studying CRISPR in depth, developing the DIY CRISPR kit(for microogranisms not humans!) and starting to think about how human beings could easily engineer themselves not just for health and medicine but also for "fun".
Around this time, an argument I constantly heard against human genetic engineering is that it would make class divides even greater. The wealthy would be able to afford genetic designers while the poor would not. That is of course if no one ever worked on making it inexpensive and accessible. What if I did? What if the masses have access to genetic modification before the wealthy because we are more clever and actually willing to try it?
So how do we begin?
There are two main ways to genetically modify any cell, including human cells, 1) Edit the genome, which is like the operating system of cell and so as you can imagine this can be dangerous 2) Add in DNA that is separate from the genome and is non-permanent, this also known as plasmid DNA, extra-chromosomal DNA, episomal DNA, transient transfection or a DNA "vaccine".
At first I only thought about (1) because I imagined the project as purely theoretical. I studied and wrote-up a feasible protocol and wanted to post it online for people to see and maybe use. I dug deep and figured out the best place for insertion into the human genome seemed to be this H11 locus and that one could deliver a CRISPR package in two separate viruses(CRISPR system is too big for only one). Use CMV driven SaCas9 and U6 driven guideRNA in an AAV serotype (serotype dependent on the cell type as they have different proclivities) with a viral titer of 10^11 or greater. You can do injections or intravenous infusions.
The more I read the more I understood how this could actually work and I became more interested in trying to use CRISPR on myself. But that seemed drastic and kind of stupid to try and make permanent genome edits on myself.
What about (2) though? Maybe I could use all the stuff I learned about studying CRISPR and try to transiently and non-permanently modify my own cells. From what I read it would only last a few days or weeks at most. I started to work on this part about a year ago and since then have explored a number of different techniques to express non-human proteins(GFP, RFP and others) in my own cells in my own body. I have been documenting with video recordings that I want to share so that others can learn and experience what it is like to push the cutting edge of Science.
My main goal is to develop methods so that genetic modification of human cells can be done by anyone safe, inexpensively and of course successfully. I plan to release as much information as I can about DNA used, reason for choosing different things. I plan to release the DNA code for the plasmid I have designed and protocols and techniques online(probably mostly on this blog) all to anyone for free.
Because there is alot of footage I plan to release posts on weeklish schedule or so. Which will include data, outcomes, footage and commentary. Going to try and not give spoilers!
For now I created a teaser with some footage from the past year and I hope you go on this journey with me to create something beautiful.