The wild world of biohacking rejects pharmaceutical medicine and instead, promotes unverified and sometimes dangerous DIY therapy. But the biohacking world is now reeling after the shocking death of one of its most vocal proponents.
Most remember Aaron Traywick as a fringe biohacker who one who once injected himself with an untested herpes therapy and claimed that he could cure AIDS. The 28-year-old was tragically found dead at an alternative spa in Washington D.C on April 29. As of early May, the official cause of death is not yet known, and his body will undergo an autopsy.
Traywick was CEO of Ascendance Biomedical, a company that describes its gene therapy treatment as being capable of eliminating HIV and AIDS. Traywick’s signature DIY compound—he claimed—could cure not only HIV/AIDS, but also herpes. The biohacker’s colleague Tristan Roberts described him as a controversial, but revolutionary alternative medicine guru.
"He seemingly never tired as he brought people together to work on some of the most imposing challenges facing humanity," Roberts said in a statement. "While many in the biohacking scene disagreed with his methods, none of them doubted his intentions. He sought nothing short of a revolution in biomedicine; the democratization of science and the opening of the flood gates for global healing."
According to Vice News, Traywick was using a flotation therapy tank. Flotation therapy tanks are used to provide alternative stress therapy—and in extreme cases, an altered state of reality. Floating in water saturated in Epsom salt at body temperature, and being deprived of sound and light can cause the loss of senses, the loss of gravity and intense euphoria.
Biohacking is defined as when people attempt to alter their own biology through lifestyle and diet changes, surgery and the utilization of unlicensed therapies. Biohackers—with great zeal—attempt to alter their own genetic makeup and try experimental procedures.
Traywick was living with herpes, and decided to take it upon himself to serve as his own guinea pig. One of Traywick’s best known stunts was injecting himself with his own “research compound” in his upper leg live at the BodyHacking Con in Austin, Texas in February. Traywick was so confident with his alternative treatment that he put it to the test on his own body.
According to Gizmodo, immediately after injecting himself with his herpes treatment, he locked himself in a lab room and wouldn’t let other employees in. Traywick responded to Gizmodo with a lawsuit for false and defamatory remarks.
Rival biohacker Josiah Zayner told BuzzFeed News that Traywick was a hack, not a biohacker.
"Usually, most biohackers are considered pretty crazy and very controversial, but he was the most controversial of the biohackers," Zayner said. "He just wanted to get stuff out there, he didn't care about the consequences to him or sometimes other people. That could be reckless, or it could be good, depending on how it ended up."
Zayner compared Traywick to historical figures who were extraordinarily wild and crazy such as the first people to fly a rocket or an airplane.
The lesson to be learned here is biohacker beware.
While the details and the cause of death have yet to be released, Traywick lived a life full of danger. Experimenting with alternative drugs can be risky. In the world of HIV and AIDS, there is a biohacker-like sect that rejects the traditional theories of the origin of AIDS. That too is a risky way to live, because not controlling HIV the right way will most likely eventually lead to death if untreated.