Created By: zarpaulus on November 15, 2013 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on December 17, 2013
Nuked

Easy Gene Therapy

Genetic modification of a developed organism is as simple as vaccination

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The idea behind gene therapy is simple enough. Just stick some genes into a virus and inject it into a person and the virus will do what viruses do and insert the genes into his cells. The reality, of course, is not so clean.

The first clinical human trial of gene therapy resulted in one death from an autoimmune reaction within days of the procedure and multiple cases of leukemia years later.

Naturally, a lot of science fiction treats gene therapy much less seriously.

Subtrope of LEGO Genetics.

Examples

Comic Books
  • In Transmetropolitan getting a new "trait" is as simple as taking a pill. For instance Spider has a bag full of anti-cancer genes in his bathroom so he and his assistants can smoke like chimneys.

Film

Live Action TV
  • In the second episode of Stargate Atlantis Dr. Beckitt developed a retrovirus that could give any human the genetic marker required to use Ancient technology. A shot and a few hours and they were ready to fly a puddlejumper. However his attempts to create a Synthetic Plague that turned Wraiths into humans were much less successful, at best it was temporary, and the first version instead turned them into bipedal Iratus Bugs.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Genesis" Dr. Crusher gives Lt. Barclay a shot to activate a dormant gene, which inadvertently activates all his dormant genes and causes them to spread by air, which in turn makes everyone on the ship "devolve" into a previous incarnation of their species history (Riker turns into a caveman, Worf into a cave-Klingon, Troi into a fish, Barclay into a spider for some reason, Data's cat into an iguana, etc.).
  • Star Trek: Voyager episode "Favorite Son". Harry Kim is changed into a Taresian by a virus that implanted Taresian genes into his body, with the genes then re-writing his DNA. The ship's holographic doctor is able to extract the alien DNA and return him to normal.

Tabletop Games
  • In GURPS Transhuman Space gene therapy is mostly accomplished via Nano Machines, though the grossest physical change they can do is give you fur or scales.
  • Warhammer 40K
    • Averted with the Tyranids; instead of reconfiguring a creature's various biomorphs it gets dissolved at a reclamation pool and a new one spawned with the right weapons.
    • Played straight with Tyranid genestealers. As infiltration units, they first infect hosts with a small bundle of genetic material that doesn't mutate their bodies, only making them subservient to the Hive Mind. As infected organisms breed, the new generation of genestealers begin to show more and more mutations (though they can still pass as their host species) until the fifth generation, which are 100% purestrains.
    • Averted with the Space Marines: the standard procedure requires inserting the various implants and organs over a long period of adaptation beginning in adolescence, and even then it is not always successful. There have been very few cases of adults surviving the process, but most of them died painfully.
    • Played straight by the Kroot: their species is somehow able to extract useful genetic material from what they eat, and the more they eat of it, the more traits they acquire (eating birds results in lighter Kroot with limited gliding ability, quadrupeds into Kroothounds, etc.). Their leaders, called shapers, are able to analyze the DNA by tasting it and direct their warriors whether or not to eat something.
  • GURPS Space Adventures, adventure "Rebirth". A genetic virus called Proteus can slowly change a human being into an alien.
  • Dark Conspiracy. The Darktek supplement had Empathic Viral Mutators, a virus that could change the victim into another creature over a period of 48 hours.

Video Games
  • Plasmids in Bioshock, walk up to a vending machine, select your genes, and seconds later your hands can shoot lightning or bees or something.
  • Starcraft. The Zerg's upgrades are basically retrofitted onto them, ranging fom sharper claws and tougher hides to extra organs and symbiotes.
  • Averted in Metal Gear Solid, where access to the corpse of Big Boss (the Metal Gear series' Big Bad) was one of the rogue Foxhound unit's demands. They needed it to cure the side effects of failed gene therapy based on his DNA.
  • Resident Evil has a few examples.
    • The T-Virus is capable of mutating a person into a zombie. Sometimes this is plausible to a point (it takes days for the infection to take hold and only really seems to make a person's body rot), other times less so (people mutate in hours or minutes). Then any realism goes straight out of the window when you find out about zombies who mutate into Lickers, zombies coming back to life again as CrimsonHeads or the small amount of people who become Tyrants.
    • The G-Virus from the second game was able to mutate William Birkin into a huge monster over the course of a day with a simple injection in the arm.
    • The unnamed virus Albert Wesker injected himself with to fake his death in the first game somehow gave him superhuman speed and strength (and lizard-like eyes), all for the low, low price of going into a coma for a while.
    • The "Veronica" strain of the T-Virus from Resident Evil Code: Veronica quickly mutated Ashford Sr. and Steve into huge (and mindless) monsters. Alexia Ashford was able to mutate in a more controlled fashion by putting herself on ice for several years.
    • Resident Evil 6 featured a strain of the virus that not only did the usual "allow this important villain to mutate into a boss" routine, but also made it possible to transform them into a copy of another person.

Western Animation
  • One episode of Family Guy had Peter participating in a genetic research study where they would inject him with, say, a "squirrel gene" and he'd immediately transform into a squirrel-man for a period of time.
  • In the world of Batman Beyond "splicing" is used to add animal traits to people. It's just a simple injection and takes (at most) a minute to take effect.

Aversions
  • In Blade Runner Roy suggests several possible ways to fix the Replicants' preprogrammed death with his creator Tyrell. He shoots them all down as they cause tumors or immune reactions.
  • In Shadowrun gene therapy involves a couple months suspended in a tank of fluid while nanites or viruses alter your genome. And there's a significant chance of complications like cancer or in rare cases SURGE. And it always costs Essence.
  • Averted in Genocide Man, it's stated that even under the most carefully controlled conditions gene therapy has a 1% death rate. And the Guyaquil plague was a contagious gene therapy package that killed nearly a billion people.
  • Subverted in The Last Days of FOXHOUND (which is a Perspective Flip of the events leading up to the first Metal Gear Solid mentioned above). Naomi admits that there's a fair chance that the therapy might well just turn all the subjects into drooling vegetables. In the end, the soldiers don't get anything out of it except the canon gene degeneration.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • November 15, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Genesis" Dr. Crusher gives Lt. Barclay a shot to activate a dormant gene, which inadvertantly activates all his dormant genes and causes them to spread by air, which in turn makes everyone on the ship "devolve" into a previous incarnation of their species history (Riker turns into a caveman, Worf into a cave-Klingon, Troi into a fish, Barclay into a spider for some reason, Data's cat into an iguana, etc.).
  • November 16, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    This is likely a subtrope of Lego Genetics.
  • November 16, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Starcraft: The Zerg's upgrades are basically retrofitted onto them, ranging fom sharper claws and tougher hides to extra organs and symbiotes.
    • Warhammer 40 K:
      • Averted with the Tyranids; instead of reconfiguring a creature's various biomorphs it gets dissolved at a reclamation pool and a new one spawned with the right weapons.
        • Played straight with Tyranid genestealers. As infiltration units, they first infect hosts with a small bundle of genetic material that doesn't mutate their bodies, only making them subservient to the Hive Mind. As infected organisms breed, the new generation of genestealers begin to show more and more mutations (though they can still pass as their host species) until the fifth generation, which are 100% purestrains.
      • Averted with the Space Marines: the standard procedure requires inserting the various implants and organs over a long period of adaptation beginning in adolescence, and even then it is not always successful. There have been very few cases of adults surviving the process, but most of them died painfully.
      • Played straight by the Kroot: their species is somehow able to extract useful genetic material from what they eat, and the more they eat of it, the more traits they acquire (eating birds results in lighter Kroot with limited gliding ability, quadrupeds into Kroothounds, etc.). Their leaders, called shapers, are able to analyze the DNA by tasting it and direct their warriors whether or not to eat something.
    • The child rapist best known as "That Yellow Bastard" in Sin City had a number of procedures including gene therapy done on him to regrow his penis, which Hartigan had shot off. Not that it did him much good in the end.
  • November 16, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Averted in Metal Gear Solid, where access to the corpse of Big Boss (the Metal Gear series' Big Bad) was one of the rogue Foxhound unit's demands. They needed it to cure the side effects of failed gene therapy based on his DNA.

    • Subverted in The Last Days Of Foxhound (which is a Perspective Flip of the events leading up to the first Metal Gear Solid mentioned above). Naomi admits that there's a fair chance that the therapy might well just turn all the subjects into drooling vegetables. In the end, the soldiers don't get anything out of it except the canon gene degeneration.
  • November 16, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Somehow the Resident Evil franchise has to fit in here :)
  • November 17, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^Where?
  • November 17, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Resident Evil has a few examples;
      • The T-Virus is capable of mutating a person into a zombie. Sometimes this is plausible to a point (it takes days for the infection to take hold and only really seems to make a person's body rot), other times less so (people mutate in hours or minutes). Then any realism goes straight out of the window when you find out about zombies who mutate into Lickers, zombies coming back to life again as CrimsonHeads or the small amount of people who become Tyrants.
      • The G-Virus from the second game was able to mutate William Birkin into a huge monster over the course of a day with a simple injection in the arm.
      • The unnamed virus Albert Wesker injected himself with to fake his death in the first game somehow gave him superhuman speed and strength (and lizard-like eyes), all for the low, low price of going into a coma for a while.
      • The "Veronica" strain of the T-Virus from Resident Evil Code Veronica quickly mutated Ashford Sr. and Steve into huge (and mindless) monsters. Alexia Ashford was able to mutate in a more controlled fashion by putting herself on ice for several years.
      • Resident Evil 6 featured a strain of the virus that not only did the usual "allow this important villain to mutate into a boss" routine, but also made it possible to transform them into a copy of another person.
  • November 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    How is this distinct from Lego Genetics?
  • November 17, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ It's a subtrope.
  • November 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That doesn't answer my question, though. Subtropes have to be distinct in a way, and this just seems to be reiterating Lego Genetics.
  • November 17, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ LEGO Genetics covers Designer Babies as well.
  • November 18, 2013
    Arivne
    Often involves a Slow Transformation of the victim.

    From that page:

    Tabletop Games
    • GURPS Space Adventures, adventure "Rebirth". A genetic virus called Proteus can slowly change a human being into an alien.
    • Dark Conspiracy. The Darktek supplement had Empathic Viral Mutators, a virus that could change the victim into another creature over a period of 48 hours.

    Also:

    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek Voyager episode "Favorite Son". Harry Kim is changed into a Taresian by a virus that implanted Taresian genes into his body, with the genes then re-writing his DNA. The ship's holographic doctor is able to extract the alien DNA and return him to normal.
  • November 18, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^^ So how is this not The Same But More Specific of Lego Genetics? As-is, the description for Lego Genetics explicitly covers this (and is better written, in my opinion) so I don't see the need to split this off.
  • November 18, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ Because LEGO Genetics makes me think of that "genes are not blueprints" thing from Alpha Centauri and suggests that it's about transgenesis. While all trials of gene therapy have been cisgenic and still experienced problems.
  • November 20, 2013
    MaxWest
    In the webseries continuation of Bucky O Hare And The Toad Wars, this is done to the toads. The toads have a natural fear of the Betelgusian baboons. Various methods are developed to counter this fear, but eventually, the toad soldiers are given injections that modify their genes and erase the genetic fear of Betelgusians.
  • November 20, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^^ Please attempt to explain the difference without using any technical jargon.
  • November 20, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^^^ Just because Lego Genetics "makes you think" of of something doesn't change the fact that it does explicitly cover gene therapy being easy.
  • November 20, 2013
    arbiter099
    • Averted in Mass Effect: Gene therapy is explicitly stated to take years to have any effect. A mission in the first game involves a technique which will reduce the time that genetic modifications take to "settle in" and get results but this only amounts to shaving off a few months at most.
  • November 20, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^^^ Transgenic = different species. Cisgenic = same species.

    ^^ So the description does sound like gene therapy. Not the impression I got from well over half the examples. I think we may have a case of trope misuse or a misleading name.
  • November 21, 2013
    TonyG
    This appears to be how Mom's genetic experiments work in the Futurama episode "Leela and the Genestalk". An extreme example is putting a live pig and a porcupine together inside a microwave oven-like device; seconds later, out comes a cooked ham, precut into squares with quills as toothpicks.
  • November 21, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^^ I do know what the cis- and trans- mean. I meant explain the difference between this and Lego Genetics without using technical jargon, not explain the difference between the technical jargon without using technical jargon.
  • November 21, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ From the looks of things LEGO Genetics is a loose trope encompassing just about every possible "soft" take on genetic engineering. From the laconic: "Mix and match DNA and you can literally build your own animal! It's just that easy!"
  • November 21, 2013
    troacctid
    Example Indentation needs checking on this one.
  • November 21, 2013
    Smoko
    Personally I've always thought that LEGO Genetics covers everything involving Hollywood's ideas of genetics. This trope (or subtrope, whatever) seems to specifically be "grab a needle, inject it, boom—superpowers" without any of the usual side-effects.
  • November 22, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work titles, corrected the improper Example Indentation and some spelling errors.
  • November 27, 2013
    IndirectActiveTransport
    I could see the description of LEGO Genetics or Bio Augmentation being expanded if this proposed page does not go through.

    Maybe we should just take examples where genetic therapy is hard or not bothered with and only those examples? That would make it distinct.
  • November 30, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    In the world of Batman Beyond "splicing" is used to add animal traits to people. It's just a simple injection and takes (at most) a minute to take effect.
  • December 13, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Added an "aversions" section.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=2lcwnqzpatfxkhngi3kmyugs&trope=DiscardedYKTTW