4 Ways Tech Is Hacking The Gap Between Health & Fitness
The world of biohackers remains a fringe group of weirdos to most of us. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, they are pioneers consumed with implanting magnets and RFID chips beneath their skin to augment their human experience.
These modifications rarely improve one’s health. The street term for these biohackers is grinders.
Tattoo parlor body modifications are a far cry from the transhumanist movement promoted by intellectuals like Elon Musk (of Space X and Tesla Automobile fame).
Grinders are examples of a growing [read: extreme] interest in using technology to connect the dots.
Consider it like this. At one time, piercing one’s ears was avant-garde. Now we barely notice a wide array of piercings, sometimes in heavy-gauge versions through unmentionable parts of the body.
Tattoos have followed the same arc, but both have shifted public opinion on the matter.
Where grinders break the seal of body hacking, in the near-future regular folks will more easily accept melding technology with our bodies. These four technologies seem today like oddities, but we are years from their integration with the lives of everyday folks.
Wearables[caption id="attachment_5532" align="alignnone" width="1920"] melita.digital[/caption]
Wearables are nothing new In fact, it seems we’re drowning in wearables these days. Analysts even have a name for it: wearables fatigue.
The market for wearables is saturated but not irrelevant. It’s true, we’ve hit a lull in the new wearable technology, but wearables are not going away, not by a long shot. They may, however, become less visible in time.
Current wearables track more than one’s heart rate, activity levels, and calorie burn. We have wearables that track VO2Max, a measure of oxygen efficiency for athletes, and even metrics like hydration.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. Last year Philips, a respected name in medicine, launched their health suite, a connected series of electronics which collect data that a patient can share directly with a physician.
For the first time, Doctors can know what’s happening with a patient's health metrics in that huge window of time outside of the doctor’s office.
This kind of data, especially as becomes more robust, could overhaul the way doctor’s test and treat their patients. It will change the way connect our fitness and our health.
Brain Implants[caption id="attachment_5535" align="alignnone" width="660"] wired.com[/caption]
Brain implant technology has been for the most part, barbaric. It’s also risky, not something one considers unless all other options fail when life cannot continue without doing something drastic.
The problem with our current brain implant technology is bridging metal wires with the complicated unmapped central nervous system.
We have a very simple map of the brain. Connecting to it not like splicing wires into a box of circuits to make a few lights turn on.
To make matters worse, when we do wire computers into the brain, and it’s successful, say when we wire around a CNS gap to enable a patient to move a prosthetic limb, the eventual outcome is a failure.
Installing circuits in the human brain always fail in time because the body builds scar tissue around the components, shorting their connections over time.
The best solution we have is to perform the brain surgery again, revisiting the risk.
Researchers at Harvard University in the U.S. may have a solution, using magnets instead of metal. When we can wire computers into the human brain, doctors and patients could gain access to untold health secrets, rebooting the fitness lives of patients otherwise doomed to a wheelchair.
Cell Programming[caption id="attachment_5537" align="alignnone" width="800"] microsoft.com[/caption]
In two recent pieces of news, researchers have reprogrammed cells for their unique needs. In one case, they’ve reprogrammed human donor cells to be stem cells, then injected them into another person.
A few months back, that same group of researchers reprogrammed cells from a patient’s skin to act like stem cells, then injected them into her retina with no negative effects.
In another part of the world, researchers announced last week that they programmed human kidney cells to work like little circuits, literally glowing when stimulated.
That work could lead to cells programmed like computers, designed to carry out microscopic attacks on cancerous cells or other microscopic anomalies.
Both studies smack of a future where we’ll be able to take a more detailed approach to our health.
Reprogramming cells to behave like other cells or like little biological nanobots, begs the question, how far are we from altering body composition of muscle mass and performance at a cellular level?
Olympic committees of the future will have to watch out for more than steroids.
Gene Therapy[caption id="attachment_5540" align="aligncenter" width="732"] avensonline.org[/caption]
Forget cells, we now have two technologies working to fight disease and change genetics at a subcellular level.
The CRISPR-Cas9 method, which we’ve had for a couple of years but is not in the hands of basement labs, allows us to cut out sections of DNA and replace them with new DNA.
We’ve yet been able to flesh out every iteration of this technology, but it promises a world of the future devoid of disease.
RNA drugs are also newer, but not brand new. In one landmark case, the boy named Cameron Harding, researchers have extended the boy’s life by years beyond what we would typically expect by administering this new class of RNA drugs.
The boy has spinal muscular atrophy, which should have ended his life by six months, but he is now a toddler. With regular administration, RNA drugs are rewriting his genetic structure.
These two nascent technologies may one day make allow humans to push the limits of human performance. They may also allow us to dial back systems like body fat accumulation; a vestige of homo Sapien survival that now causes us to become overweight in this modern world of abundance.
Most of these technologies are beyond the reach of today’s grinders, but some are not.
One can buy wearables and CRISPR-Cas9 kits are for sale from many online suppliers. How long before tattoo parlors offer gene therapy or reprogrammed donor stem cells to hopeful biohackers?
It’s coming. There will be some horror stories for sure, but in the long (or short?) run, we’re gonna bridge the gap between the hospital and the gym through tech.
Damon Mitchell is a recovering fitness industry fancy-pants, with twenty plus years of experience. He’s been certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. These days he works as a content creator.