The Biologist Who Believes in the Possibility of ‘Spider-Man-like’ Transformations of People

In MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado has a profile of a biologist named Brian Hanley, who is testing out gene therapy by injecting copies of a gene he has designed into his own body. Hanley believes that “Spider-Man-like transformations of people” are possible in the near-future.

Most gene therapy involves high-tech, multimillion-dollar experiments carried out by large teams at top medical centers, with an eye to correcting rare illnesses like hemophilia. But Hanley showed that gene therapy can be also carried out on the cheap in the same setting as liposuction or a nose job, and might one day be easily accessed by anyone.

In an attempt to live longer, some enthusiasts of anti-aging medicine already inject growth hormone, swallow fullerenes, or gulp megavitamins, sometimes with disregard for mainstream medical thinking. Now unregulated gene therapy could be the next frontier. “I think it’s damn crazy,” says Bruce Smith, a professor at Auburn University who develops genetic treatments for dogs. “But that is human nature, and it’s colliding with technology.”

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