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Josiah Zayner

Gene editing has arrived. Of the various forms of the technology, CRISPR-Cas9 is the easiest to use, and it’s already showing up in summer camps and school science labs near you. That would be middle schools.

When everyone can edit an organism’s genes, how will the world change? Should we be worried? National security officials say yes.

Should we also be hopeful? A handful of drug companies have either begun or will soon begin human clinical studies of medicines that directly alter a patient’s genes.

Despite all this activity, biohackers like Josiah Zayner think the world is moving too slowly. They are pushing the boundaries of do-it-yourself gene editing, for medicine, for exploration, and for fun, through home CRISPR kits and audacious displays of self-experimentation. They have instant access to a global audience through social media, and they like to use it.

Zayner has publicly documented a few home-brewed experiments—including green-glowing beer and a replacement of his gut microbiome—and he has helped develop a do-it-yourself treatment for a Norwegian woman who was told she had incurable lung cancer. He...