Pushing the limits: biohacking’s promise for a new era of human potential

Known to some as 'DIY biology', biohacking aims to counteract the effects of ageing, potentially unlocking the secret to longevity — if not immortality. For many, the quest for 'eternal life' has become a pursuit that knows no boundaries.
Industries: Healthcare
Trends: Biotech
  • A deeper dive into biohacking. What is it exactly?
  • Social wellness club Remedy Place provides extreme health makeovers
  • Melbourne’s Saint Haven ‘sci-fi clinic’ offers cutting-edge fitness tech
  • Tech magnate turns to son’s blood plasma to reverse the ageing process
  • Independent ‘anti-ageing state’ to fast-track drugs that slow ageing

In the age where information is at our fingertips and technology advances at an unprecedented rate, a new movement is captivating the minds and bodies of many: biohacking. Biohacking is more than just a trendy term. It represents a radical approach to self-improvement. Known to some as ‘DIY biology’, it’s a realm where individuals take the reins of their biology into their own hands, seeking to optimise health, performance, and overall wellbeing. The ultimate goal? To counteract the effects of ageing and potentially unlock the secret to longevity — if not immortality. Fuelled by a confluence of factors — from groundbreaking technological advances to an insatiable thirst for personal optimisation and increased access to health data — the biohacking trend has skyrocketed.

Elite biohacking clubs, opulent havens for the ultra-wealthy and well-connected, have sprouted globally, showcasing the allure of extreme life extension. But it’s not just the privileged elite who are drawn to this movement. Everyday individuals, too, are diving into the world of vitality-maximising routines, whether it’s through bespoke vitamin regimens or innovative wellness practices. There’s no denying that the quest for ‘eternal life’ has become an obsession for many. It’s a pursuit that knows no boundaries, especially when financial constraints are removed from the equation. As we delve deeper into this article, we’ll uncover some fascinating biohacking initiatives and look at the transformative potential that comes with pushing the human body to its limits. Join us on this journey into the future of human evolution.

A deeper dive into biohacking. What is it exactly?

The rapidly evolving domain of biohacking merges human curiosity with the potential of modern science to push the boundaries of our physical and cognitive potential. At its core, biohacking is about self-improvement and tapping into our body’s latent abilities, and its practices range from simple lifestyle tweaks to technological enhancements. One of the more naturalistic biohacking approaches involves long or intermittent fasts. Enthusiasts argue that by depriving the body of nutrients for extended periods, one induces a process wherein cells regenerate, rejuvenate, and repair. This is claimed to bring various health benefits, such as heightened metabolic health and improved cognitive performance. Another type of biohacking is cryotherapy, a treatment that involves (literally) bone-chilling temperatures to purportedly reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, and enhance sleep quality. This treatment has found favour with athletes and celebrities alike for its alleged rapid recovery benefits.

On the technological front, the integration of NFC chip implants has become a fascination for some. These tiny devices, embedded beneath your skin, expand your digital-physical capabilities, whether it’s opening a door, accessing a computer, or even facilitating payments. And in the realm of personal health optimisation, custom-made vitamin packs are also increasingly gaining traction. By tailoring supplements to individual health needs or to fix certain deficiencies, determined through diagnostics like blood tests, you can aim for a more holistic health regime. On the more avant-garde end of the spectrum, the vampire facial has gained notoriety. This cosmetic procedure involves re-injecting your own blood into your face, aiming to reduce signs of ageing and rejuvenate your complexion. Nootropics is another type of biohacking, in which so-called cognitive enhancers — from caffeine to various more intricate compounds — promise heightened brain function. Perhaps one of the most intriguing biohacking methods is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This non-invasive technique, which involves passing a gentle electric current through the brain, claims to offer improved memory and cognitive function. Of course, this fascinating world of biohacking isn’t limited to the mentioned methods. Practices like wearing blue light-blocking glasses, taking cold showers, and even microdosing certain substances all fit into this expansive ‘self improvement’ category. 

“Our bodies are machines and need maintenance”.

Dr. Jonathan Leary, founder Remedy Place

Social wellness club Remedy Place provides extreme health makeovers

A real-world example of biohacking in action is the social wellness club Remedy Place. It has emerged as a luxurious sanctuary for biohackers, offering an array of state-of-the-art treatments tailored to those aiming for peak physical and mental optimisation. Holding a doctorate in chiropractic and alternative medicine, Dr. Jonathan Leary conceptualised Remedy Place during his tenure as a boutique physician in Los Angeles. His medical practice, which focused on non-invasive methods for addressing persistent pain, drew the attention of a notable clientele, including various celebrities, influential CEOs, and elite athletes. Leary perceived a growing need for holistic wellness among urban dwellers, particularly those pursuing longevity, and in 2019, his vision became a reality with the grand opening of Remedy Place’s Flagship club in West Hollywood, California, which also marked the launch of the world’s first social wellness club. In 2022, Remedy Place expanded into the heart of Manhattan’s Flatiron district with its second health club, with plans underway for the development of several new locations each year. The clubs have drawn an impressive crowd, including the likes of Rita Ora, Sean White, and Kacey Musgraves. The club even created a pop-up at Kourtney Kardashian’s home, with sisters Kim and Kendall Jenner in attendance.

At Remedy Place, time-honoured medicinal wisdom is merged with cutting-edge technology, crafting a comprehensive path to improved wellbeing. Whether harnessing the innovations of contemporary tools like hyperbaric chambers or tapping into age-old Chinese medicinal practices, the club’s central aim remains constant: equipping the body with the ideal environment to tap into its innate healing capabilities. For a substantial monthly fee of $595, members are given an exclusive gateway to what’s touted as an ‘extreme health makeover’. Oxygen pods are a major highlight, simulating high-altitude conditions to invigorate the system with augmented oxygen levels, potentially aiding in increased cognitive clarity and stamina. The clubs’ infrared saunas are meticulously designed, emitting specific wavelengths of light to penetrate the skin, facilitating not just detoxification, but also promoting enhanced skin health, relaxation, and improved circulation. 

A particular favourite among many is the IV vitamin drips. Administered under expert supervision, these drips directly infuse the bloodstream with a tailored concoction of vitamins and minerals, promising quick absorption and tangible rejuvenating effects. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Remedy Place is its pioneering identity as the world’s premier ‘social wellness club’. Beyond the physical, it acknowledges the integral role of mental wellbeing and companionship in health. Amidst the ambient lighting and serene interiors, members can foster meaningful connections with fellow health aficionados, sharing insights, experiences, and aspirations. Leary: “Remedy Place is not only for professional athletes or seven-days-a-week gym-goers; every person can benefit from its treatments, because we are all athletes, and our bodies are machines and need maintenance”.

Melbourne’s Saint Haven ‘sci-fi clinic’ offers cutting-edge fitness tech

Nestled in the heart of Melbourne, Saint Haven is another visionary establishment that combines the serenity of a spa with the innovations of a sci-fi clinic. Saint Haven promises an experience that’s several notches above your typical pampering. Behind this avant-garde venture is entrepreneur Tim Gurner, founder and CEO of Gurner Group, who seems to be looking younger every time you see him. Gurner: “Through my wellness journey I had always seen it as a limitation of the industry that I could never access all the treatments and services together in one place. It was always one venue for a gym, another for a recovery studio, and another for medicinal or alternative health treatments — no one has ever integrated it all into one holistic space”. The club boasts an array of cutting-edge fitness technologies that have caught the attention of numerous celebrities, reinforcing its stature as a trendsetter in the wellness arena. 

Beyond the usual spa treatments, Saint Haven delves into the realm of advanced health and fitness. AI-driven cardio is one of its flagship offerings, harnessing artificial intelligence to tailor cardiovascular exercises to an individual’s unique needs. Similarly, oxygen variability training, another of its innovative services, optimises the balance between oxygen intake and physical exertion, aiming to enhance stamina and overall health. Further deepening its commitment to holistic wellness, the facility emphasises the importance of breath training, offering guided breath training classes that are designed to improve lung capacity, mental clarity, and even stress management. Despite its rigorous five-stage interview process, Saint Haven claims to have sold a significant number of memberships, which cost as much as $23,000 annually. Gurner explains: “While I can’t comment on the exact number of applications that we didn’t proceed with, it was a substantial number. We are very focused on curating a diverse group of members that will interact cohesively, as we bring together people from all different backgrounds”.

Tech magnate turns to son’s blood plasma to reverse the ageing process

And as if the above examples aren’t extreme enough, here’s a case that will really raise your eyebrows. With his annual investment of $2 million, the well-known biohacker and tech billionaire Bryan Johnson’s pursuit of eternal youth is nothing if not dedicated. Johnson collaborates with a thirty-member medical team to test an array of unorthodox treatments. His newest experiment involves infusing his bloodstream with that of his 17-year-old son and then transferring a bit of this blended blood to his 70-year-old dad. Johnson recently underwent this unique transfusion at a specialised clinic in Dallas, Texas. The procedure involved drawing a litre of his son’s blood, which was then divided into its plasma and a mix of cells, using specialised technology. The next step was to re-infuse this ‘young blood’ into Johnson to stimulate cell renewal. Later, a similar treatment was administered to Johnson’s father, using Johnson’s ‘rejuvenated’ blood. This wasn’t Johnson’s first tryst with plasma transfusions, mind you; he had earlier acquired them from an anonymous donor.

The whole idea was inspired by a 2005 study at the University of California, Berkeley, where researchers had discovered that when a young mouse shared its circulatory system with an older one, the elder mouse experienced rejuvenated muscle tissue. While later studies have indicated possible benefits from plasma transfers between young and old rodents, these findings are still awaiting peer review. Such studies also lead to discussions on ethical and moral grounds, especially concerning the implications for younger generations in favour of potentially aiding the older ones. Johnson explains that what he does may seem extreme, but he aims to show that decay isn’t inevitable. He has the heart health of someone in their 30s, the skin of a personl nearing their late 20s, and the fitness prowess of a teenager. The evidence suggests he might be onto something. Johnson’s goal is to maintain the vitality of when he was 18 through his rigorous ‘Project Blueprint’ regimen, which demands a puréed vegetable diet, meticulous calorie monitoring, and an array of supplements, even to the extent of snorting stem cells and swallowing lithium. Johnson’s skincare regime involves weekly acid peels, regular colonoscopies, and monthly facial injections to maintain skin structure. Before his 20:00 bedtime, he dons blue-light-blocking glasses, and instead of guided meditations or counting sheep, he counts his erections. To enhance muscle tone, Johnson regularly undergoes electromagnetic pulse treatment that targets his pelvic floor. His fitness regimen comprises daily exercises, thrice-weekly HIIT, and weekend sports. Although all of this sounds intense, to say the least, the affluent’s quest for eternal youth often feels paradoxical: investing heavily in the present for an uncertain future.

Individuals should have the autonomy to decide how much risk they are willing to accept when it comes to experimental treatments, instead of medical professionals having the final say.

Independent ‘anti-ageing state’ to fast-track drugs that slow ageing

A group of roughly 800 biotechnology and longevity aficionados, people interested in extending human life through various biotechnology approaches, recently met in Montenegro to work on establishing an independent state called Zuzalu. The initiative was spearheaded by Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of the cryptocurrency Ethereum. In this state, like-minded innovators can collaborate on creating a new jurisdiction where they can explore and trial experimental treatments. The group contends that ageing is ‘morally bad’ — an issue that requires proactive solutions. In their view, present-day regulations stifle progress, necessitating a shift in the regulatory landscape, and a reduction in bureaucratic obstacles could catalyse innovation. They feel that individuals should have the autonomy to decide how much risk they are willing to accept when it comes to experimental treatments, instead of medical professionals having the final say. They are also of the opinion that businesses should have the freedom to operate without being bound by national regulations concerning drug development and testing. The goal of the state is to encourage biotech companies to set up bases there by loosening regulations on clinical trials, supporting biohacking, and offering tax perks.

The ChatGPT-generated name ‘Zuzalu’ as well as the event logo that was also created by generative AI have no particular meaning, according to co-organiser Janine Leger from blockchain platform Gitcoin. Some of the people coming to the state are just visitors, while a devoted group has already been staying at Zuzalu for almost two months. Every week a new theme is introduced — ranging from cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence to longevity, synthetic biology and, of course, the establishment of new jurisdictions. The focus of this first event is to experiment with co-living and to experience the physical presence of an ‘online tribe’ of individuals with similar ideas.

According to Josef Christensen, chief business development officer at the stem-cell company StemMedical and Zuzalu attendee, many companies are actively researching medications that address ageing, such as those that revitalise cells or eliminate older ones. However, a significant challenge these companies face is the absence of a clear regulatory route to introduce these products to the market. One primary hurdle is that ageing isn’t classified as a medical condition that requires treatment. This makes it challenging to secure approval for a trial that focuses on anti-ageing solutions, and improbable for a longevity drug to gain medical approval. Furthermore, classifying ageing as a disease would bring its own complications. It would be intricate as well as costly to establish whether a remedy has an effect, as this would require trial participants to be continuously monitored for decades. Another option would be to use biomarkers that show a person’s biological age or to make use of so-called ‘ageing clocks’. Theoretically, rather than watching someone pass away of old age, one could analyse a blood or saliva sample to gauge their ageing rate based on specific DNA indicators. But at this moment, such dependable biomarkers or ageing clocks don’t exist yet.

In closing

As we journey into an age where scientific advancements blur the lines between the possible and the fantastical, biohacking emerges as the vanguard of self-optimisation. The allure of tweaking our biology, turning dials in our favour, has never been more tantalising, particularly for the elite who dabble in avant-garde treatments in their quest to reach (near)-immortality. Their pursuit raises an intriguing question: can the mysteries of life’s duration truly be unlocked with the right price tag? With every innovative gadget and high-tech intervention available to those with large budgets, it might seem that longevity can indeed be bought. But in this strive towards biological enhancement and perhaps even life extension, we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s really important. While we might figure out ways to live longer, physically healthier lives, how can we make sure that these extended years are filled with genuine joy, satisfaction, and contentment? The age-old pursuit of happiness remains a complex mosaic of experiences and emotions that technology might enhance but not necessarily create. So, while biohacking offers tantalising possibilities for our physical selves, the journey to true contentment might still need a more holistic approach, transcending the bounds of science.

Industries: Healthcare
Trends: Biotech
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