Biohack your body

By Express News Service

Exercise, diet, medication, supplements and even fasting can alter the chemicals in your body to enhance your health, cognition and longevity. CE speaks to experts about biohacking, which is emerging as a major health and lifestyle trend

HYDERABAD: You might have not realised it, but you have been hacking your body. Through exercise, diet, medication, supplements and even fasting, you are altering the chemicals in your body to enhance your health, cognition and longevity. You are a biohacker. An otherwise healthy individual, who chooses to change their physiology by various do-it-yourself methods to make the mind and body perform at their best, is a biohacker.  

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Take for example, nootropics, a big hit in the Silicon Valley to increase productivity. This is a category of biohacking for cognitive enhancement through medications. “Healthy individuals can choose from an array of 1,000 psychotropic substances and cognition-altering drugs, which come in different forms as prescribed pills. However, the benefits, like enhanced cognition, can cause several side effects if it is not prescribed properly,” says Dr Gunaseela, Assistant Director of Telangana Forensic Science Laboratory. “People have been using prescribed pills to improve their cognitive performance in Hyderabad too, but the occurrence is uncommon,” he adds.

Another method is the good old fasting.  Any imbalance in nutrients forces the body to adapt. The outcome could be negative or positive, but the body does its best to adapt itself. “When one stresses the body by fasting, the body switches on the survival mechanism by running on stored fat instead of glucose obtained from food. This way there is an increase in energy levels in the body and mind. It also helps on a cellular level by eating all the bad cell contents for making energy through a process called autophagy. This helps the body create new cells,” says Dr Sujhata, Clinical Dietitian at Yashoda Hospitals.  

Similarly, consuming certain minerals such as zinc can improve our immune system.  Fitbits and digital wearables that are used to track how are we functioning physiologically also are part of bio-hacking. Exercise and physical activity can help release good cortisol hormone, which helps in improving health.

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It’s all in your genes
Everyone wants a healthy and long life. But the genes we inherit from our parents might make us suspectable to certain illnesses. What if there was a way to ‘re-engineer’ the genes that can cause a certain disease? Scientists say that it is possible to alter your genes through a certain diet, medication, exercise or even supplements.  

Scientists have found that our body is programmed by our genes. Thanks to modern research through genomics, we now not only have the ability to interpret these codes, but to also re-engineer them. Nutrigenomics, pharmacogenomics, epigenetics and gene-editing technologies are silently incubating in our city to shape the future of healthcare, lifestyle and to increase productivity. The future drugs would have fewer side effects and would work on gene silencing a process of regulation of gene expression in a cell to prevent the expression of an unhealthy or misfit gene.  “Through nutrigenomics, we interpret the gene and help people cure anomalies with diet. The food is prescribed in such a way that it would silence the triggering gene, therefore, resulting in a cure,” said Dr Kalyan Uppuluri, managing director of K&H Personalised Medical Clinic, which treats people based on their genetic profiles. 

“An otherwise healthy individual may not suffer from diabetes but may have a family history of it. If they have genetic determinants of polymorphisms of class II HLA genes, we will know that the person is prone to diabetes. Therefore, we can prescribe a few foods or medication to silence the disease-causing gene,” adds Dr Kalyan.

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“If the gene is not triggered by changing lifestyle, it is silenced by maintaining the right kind of diet or medication. This will minimise the side effects to the minimum,” he says. 

According to Dr Kalyan, gene sequencing and interpretation takes a long time as the data collected should be examined with the genes of the local population. However, there is widespread research going on in the world and the country, particularly in the city, that can help us gather genetic information and provide treatment. “At least 1,700 papers are published each day on genomics; it is growing faster than any other discipline in science. This shows that genomics is clearly the future,” says Dr Kalyan, adding that one of the top five technology companies in the world has acquired shares in his company. 

Genomics in the city
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently inaugurated the NKC Centre for Genomics Research, South Asia’s largest and most-advanced genomics facility in Hyderabad. Besides this, there is the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) working on gene sequencing and interpretation to make drugs that can silence genes

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‘Things will get better’
Dr Rakesh Mishra, director, Tata Institute of Genetics and Society, says technology is changing faster than anticipated and the country might drift into genomics to edit genes for health and longevity. “It will get better with time as nothing can be said until we have enough gene samples of the local population. Hopefully, the challenges associated with genomics can be addressed soon. For now, there’s the CRISPR gene-editing technology but it is illegal,” he says

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