The biological counterpart to Cyborging
: instead of altering humans to add machine parts, the geeks in the lab-coats change the flesh, blood and DNA.
Genetic Engineering and stem cell research opens new avenues in the way science and Sci Fi
writers can create modified humans to suit any environment. You could think of them as artificially created Mutants
, but "artificially created" is the key to the definition. And we mean created on purpose, not by freak accident like being bombarded with gamma radiation
or other exposure to Green Rocks
On the mild end, this can entail things that, if current medical science keeps trending the way it does in Real Life
, may not sound all that fantastic in a few decades: limb grafts, biological prosthetics and less visible gene mod enhancements that make people smarter, stronger and better at stuff. Further down the fantastic scale you start to get genetic superpowers
, quick and easy drastic cosmetic changes from plastic surgery on up (want green skin and spots? No problem!), extra limbs and stuff that makes humans look a lot more like aliens than most Human Aliens
Can be combined with Cyborging
for even more body mod fun. Certain types of Functional Magic
may accomplish the same thing but many or most of them are better listed under Mix And Match Creature
or Hybrid Monster
, and of those remaining, should be looked at with Clarke's Third Law
in mind. Is a newer trope than cyborging because Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
(and shares some but not all examples with it). Also see Organic Technology
, LEGO Genetics
, Magic Genetics
, Superpowerful Genetics
, Mix-and-Match Critters
, Art Major Biology
, Bio Punk
, and its Super Trope
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Anime and Manga
- Appleseed has "bioroids", Artificial Humans with genetically suppressed aggressiveness.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex also has a bioroid, Proto, in the second season.
- Claymores use something like Graft Flesh from D&D for reproduction.
- Absalom in One Piece is a freakish mixture of animal parts all sewn to his previously normal human body. You can't see most of it normally except for his lion's mouth. Sadly for him, biology and physics don't work the same in this world, so Sanji is much stronger than the bear muscles comprising his limbs.
- Coordinators and Extended in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. The former are humans genetically engineered to be peak mental and physical specimens of the human race, the latter are ordinary humans turned supersoldiers through years of mental conditioning and carefully-administered drug regimens.
- The Human Reform Legaue in Gundam 00 also uses genetic engineering to create Super Soldiers with telepathic ability. Such a project produced Allelujah and Soma.
- In Guyver the entire business plan of the ChronosCorporation is to "optimize" humans into monstrous Zoanoids.
- In Wild Fangs, Syon is created in attempt to make more Marked Ones. Besides being created via artificial insemination, he was continually having pieces transplanted onto him leaving huge raw scars where the natural markings would ideally be.
- Tsukune and Hokuto from Rosario + Vampire are humans who have been infused with the blood of monsters, and have gained some of their powers—and some mental instability.
- Many Bishokuya from Toriko are infused with Gourmet Cells which cause mutations giving them special powers and limited Adaptive Ability. It also turns them into Big Eaters due to the cells requiring massive amounts of energy and eating food that is compatible with them will cause them to "evolve".
- Rogue Trooper centres around the last surviving Genetic Infantryman out to avenge his comrades.
- In The Mighty, Alpha One Had been kidnapping humans for years and experimented on them to give them the same super powers as him. Most of them turned into monsters.
- In the story "Bats in My Belfry", in Tales From the Crypt, a man who was going deaf received an ear-canal transplant from a bat. The same back-alley surgeon who performed this impossible operation had previously given one of the protagonist's friends an eye-transplant from a panther.
- Iron Man foe Ezekiel Stane augmented himself to be a biological version of Iron Man. He can use his own body's energy reserves to fly and generate repulsor blasts, but needs to consume a very high calorie goo to avoid starving himself to death after using his powers. To use his full powers, Ezekiel also needs to wear a suit designed to vent excess body heat to avoid burning himself up.
- In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion before the First Arcanotech War there was a genefixing procedures that modified humans. After the Nazzadi joined, due to their existential angst by being an manufactured race with Fake Memories they put a stop to any transhuman experiments. By the time the fanfic starts, genefixing is slowly resurfacing.
- In Warhammer 40000 Trouble, all the (teen) humans are given Bio-Augmentation. Instead of painful surgery or something, they're only given drugs and manipulated diets, and they become stronger via Training from Hell and Level Grinding. The best result achieved when they're in puberty (14-20 years). Elites are those who can stand heavier training, therefore higher Power Levels. Result usually break into three categories:
- Soldiers = Simply stronger and faster (most people tends toward this, boys and girls alike). All of them Join Guardsmen.
- Sisters= Girls weaker than the female Guardsmen, but able to synchronize with Powered Armor efficiently (without Black Carapace).
- Operators= Incredibly high perception, G-tolerance, and motor control, resulting almost-instant Ace Pilot.
- Duumvirate has electroplaques, quadbracchalism, combustive gases, and other things as "extras". The new basic humans have regeneration, super strength, and super speed.
- The Vatta's War series has "humods", modified humans that use combinations of biotech and cyborg tech in a way that they practically stand in for the series' Absent Aliens. A tongue that can check the authenticity of precious gems? Extra-sensitive tentacle hands? Colored skin? You can have all that.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga books:
- The Cetagandans are extremely into genetic engineering on themselves. Especially the Haut caste.
- On Jackson's Whole we see body guards who have enhanced strength and reflexes, at the cost of shorter lifespans. They're also the ones who made Taura the super-soldier, and Baron Ryoval would make you a slave to satisfy any of your depraved desires, for a price.
- The novel Blood Music, winner of a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award, is a Gone Horribly Wrong example: a scientist creates biological computers, each potentially as smart as a human from lymphocyte cells then injects them into himself. They attain self-awareness. Chaos ensues.
- Along with rampant xenophobia, a rigid caste system, a hatred of nonorganic technology, and institutionalized, religious masochism, this is the Yuuzhan Vongs' "thing". Chopping off fingers or limbs to replace them with specifically-created animal bits is a sign of status; if their bodies then reject the new additions, it leads to a major drop in status.
- This trope is the foundation of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies Trilogy.
- In Orson Scott Card's "Shadow" series, a rogue scientist alters the DNA of 24 fertilized eggs to create superhumans, with a possible goal of replacing humanity. They're highly intelligent from an impossibly young age; the only downside is that they grow so large their bodies can't take the stress and they die by the age of 20. The experiment's only survivor is Bean, and he does his best to keep his children from inheriting it.
- This trope is also the foundation of James Patterson's Maximum Ride Series.
- Further toward the fantastic end of things, we have the Bred in The Sirantha Jax Series. They're engineered at birth to be better than average humans — faster, stronger, more graceful, more beautiful. They even have at least one superpower — regeneration.
- Tons of it in the Council Wars series, as part of the general Magic from Technology nature of the milieu.
- Used in the Honor Harrington series. The depiction is fairly realistic, with such things as the titular character suffering malnutrition when her Hyperactive Metabolism isn't kept fed. The series also features a fight against "genetic slavery".
- It's amazing how many fantasy stories let the protagonist to absorb his opponent's abilities simply by drinking their blood.
- In Spin there is the Fourth Age, extending one's life and allowing to install different abilities on the human.
- The Sauron Cyborgs in Jerry Pournelle's future history cycle are created through bioaugmentation rather than chop and replace.
- This is the Hat of the planet Prometheus in George R. R. Martin's "Thousand Worlds" short stories. Through genetic engineering, the Prometheans are bigger, stronger, faster, and mentally they are always "three steps ahead", to quote a Promethean character from "Nightflyers". It's theorized that they live longer than non-augmented humans as well.
- Greg Egan's Quarantine focuses heavily on neural mods that alter people's thought processes - for instance, Sentinel allows a person to stay focused and alert through long periods of inactivity, and Boss allows a person to play with their circadian rhythm, meaning that they can fall asleep at-will or set aside the effects of fatigue. The protagonist in particular modded himself to not be bothered by his wife's death, which is implied to be semi-common. More conventionally, the book also mentions that most southern Australians have black skin to combat the destruction of the ozone layer.
- Rob Grant's Colony has backstreet grafters, who can (illegally) replace existing organs and add extra body parts. A prostitute offers one character a handjob with a hand with a vagina in the palm.
- Jeff VanderMeer's Finch features the Partials, people who have deliberately allowed parts of their bodies to be overtaken by beneficial fungus infections and replaced one of their eyes with a "fungus camera", in order to become Quislings for the Graycaps.
- Done with almost terrifying thoroughness by the "Change" syringes in Beggars In Spain. In addition to delivering the Cell Cleaner, which destroys any bearers of non-native DNA (from bacteria to cancer), it modifies the human body to be able to liquefy and absorb certain forms of matter, and adds organelles capable of photosynthesis and fixing nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. If mouth food is not available, a Changed person can lie on soil and in sunlight for half an hour and obtain all the energy they need. "You are now autotrophic."
- In the web-novel Domina, something called the "toy maker" lets people modify their bodies relatively easily. It's described as "like stem cells, but without the moral implications." The products are called "toys," and are split into cosmetic "cosmos" and functional "buffs."
- The Susan Gates novel Dusk, which centered on a girl engineered with hawk DNA
- In Robert Silverberg's story "At the Conglomeroid Cocktail Party", genetic engineering is such a common and casually-regarded thing in the far future that people actually hold "fetus parties" where they invite the guests to come up with the best design for the hosts' future offspring.
- "Pure" boys and some girls living in the Dome undergo "coding" (enhancing their speed, strength and intelligence) in Julianna Baggott's sci-fi novel Pure.
- In Roger Zelazny's Creatures Of Light And Darkness, this is common on the human worlds, especially Blis, where we meet a wrestler with four arms, and Megra of Kalgan has such enhanced strength that she can only trust the strongest of men to survive her lovemaking.
- In Neuromancer Wintermute replaces Case's failing pancreas and liver with bioengineered ones that make him Immune to Drugs, he then spends much of the book looking for something that can get him high.
- In Robert Reed's Great Ship universe, the Remoras are constantly bombarded by interstellar radiation due to them living on the outer hull of the Great Ship, which causes rampant mutations. The Remoras use technology to cultivate the mutations into forms they consider useful or beautiful - such as being able to see further up the visual spectrum by replacing their eyes with photosensitive hairs.
Live Action TV
- The Star Trek universe does not indulge in this to a great deal but it's reasonable to believe they have the technology for it, given that when someone needs to pass as, say, Romulan or Cardassian (or Cardassian posing as a human in one case), they can drop into sick bay for some easy plastic surgery and genuine pointy ears.
- The Federation banned it due to having the genetic engineering equivalent to a Robot War. Earth's early attempts created Khan and his supermen, superior in mind and body but too aggressive. They ended up starting the Eugenics Wars. This causes a major problem for Dr. Bashir when he gets found out. Genetically enhanced humans were eventually dubbed "Augments".
- The United Earth had a ban on genetic enhancement before becoming founding the Federation, as mentioned on Enterprise. However, other species are not discussed. The question of whether a society that regularly used genetic engineering could join the Federation is not discussed.
- Bashir would later be charged with the care of a quartet of...slightly off Augments in "Statistical Improbabilities." Nicknamed the "Jack Pack" after their nominal leader, the four are able to postulate how the Dominion War will end... and then try and facilitate the Federation's surrender to prevent the needless waste of life.
- Despite the ban, one The Next Generation episode had the Federation allow a research station to develop an "ideal" human species. With long lifespans, improved intelligence, youthful appearance, telepathy, and an advanced immune system, they were the scientist's every dream. Almost.
- On the other hand, The Dominion, Federation's Evil Counterpart, is a huge genetic engineering society. Jem'Hadar were created from nothing, Vorta bred from some other form; and it's stated that The Founders were once humanoids but genetically engineered themselves into shape shifters. It is even supposed that their close-mindedness is the price they paid for their new body abilities.
- The Suliban on Star Trek: Enterprise obeyed a mysterious figure from the future in exchange for genetic upgrades.
- Babylon 5: Vorlons bioengineered various younger races to have telepathy. The Psi-Corps does extensive experimentation to allow telepaths greater abilities. Gill implants exist that allow the recipients to breathe in atmospheres they usually can't.
- A regular character in Sea Quest DSV had himself implanted with gills to allow him to breathe underwater. Apparently, he is also able to survive at great depths.
- Also, there is a race of GELFs (Genetically-Engineered Life Forms), bred to be supersoldiers. They eventually force UEO to recognize them as equals. They can breathe in rarefied atmosphere.
- The Red Dwarf episode DNA had a DNA modifier which would allow a user to change their genetic structure. When the crew encounter the ship it was on, they find a man with three heads. Kryten accidentally becomes human, Lister becomes a chicken, a hamster and a foot tall "Man-Plus" (Essentially Lister crossed with RoboCop) and a mutton vindaloo becomes a mutant vindaloo-based creature that can only be killed with the application of lager.
- Heroes has a red formula that gives people a seemingly random ability.
- In Firefly, this appears to be the goal of the Academy, which gives people Psychic Powers, mental conditioning, and combat training to create superhumanly powerful assassins.
- In Mortasheen, as you level up, you can improve your Mons via this.
- Warhammer 40000, Space Marines, need I say more?
- Dungeons & Dragons has the "Graft Flesh" feat and several variations that allow the altering of a creature's biology.
- In the Dark Sun setting supplement The Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs, players are introduced to living "life shaped" items that could be implanted in living beings.
- Cyberpunk 203 X includes a sea-faring tribe that uses genetic manipulation instead of cybernetics.
- Shadowrun has bioware (biological implants that enhance the recipient's abilities) as well as genetic augmentations. They aren't nearly as cool as and more expensive than cybernetic implants, but they do cost less essence.
- The one that shows up all over the place, especially in the novels, is the Supra-Thyroid Gland. Better, stronger, faster... all in one easy operation. The side effect is fun, too.
- Approximately half of GURPS: Biotech is devoted to this.
- A common trope in the Star Drive setting, especially for Thuldan characters.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- In Hunter The Vigil, The operatives of the Cheiron Group keep up with supernatural creatures by abducting them, cutting them apart, and grafting bits of what make them special into their own systems.
- The Skaven supplement Children Of The Horned Rat for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has several sections on body augmentation - either technological, using bionics or powered frames built by Clan Skryre and done willingly, or actually warping flesh (usually that of prisoners) and melding creatures with weapons or mechanisms to produce horrific shock troops as practiced by Clan Moulder. Moulder members also tend to "improve" themselves as well, with extra limbs or massively altered metabolisms, with roughly the same results.
- For a period, there was a Skaven-specific Gaiden Game of Rat Ogre Pitfighting on the Games Workshop website, dedicated to the deranged craft of Clan Moulder. The entire point of the game was to do this kind of stuff to your "pets" and hurl them against the other players.
- GURPS Transhuman Space, obviously. Implanted bioengineered organs ranging from straight-up replacements to lungs that allow you to breathe Mars' atmosphere, and Proteus nanoviruses that can rewrite DNA in living cells ("soft" changes only though).
- Eclipse Phase again. In this RPG, changing bodies is done so often that a body is referred to as a 'sleeve'; all it takes is for someone to extract your "Cortical Stack" (which makes a backup of your mind once per second) and plug it into a new sleeve. Most biological sleeves, aside from non-engineered humans (called Flats) are immune to aging, immune to all natural diseases including cancer, and can even regenerate lost limbs over time.
- The Great Beings in BIONICLE do this to many of their experiments, including giving the Vorox and Zesk tails.
- The Order of Mata Nui has been known to do this as well; for example, they are known to have experimented on Ehlek's race, but just what they did to them is unknown.
- The Splicers in BioShock are this Gone Horribly Wrong, quick and easy gene modification for superpowers at the cost of sanity. The plasmids/tonics that cause the most mental damage are the cosmetic plasmids (which the player can't use), which were designed that way.
- Deus Ex has the protagonist, his brother and the two main antagonists equipped with "nano-augmentations". In the sequel, this technology is much more widespread.
- The prequel explores the moral implications of bio-augmentation, which is pretty widespread. Something happens between the prequel and the original game to get rid of most of the enhancements.
- First, the original game takes place in dark times, with a plague set upon the world. Second, you still can meet people with enhancements - aside from obvious Anna Navare and Gunther Herman, there are some Non Player Characters with cyber-enhancements, like the bartender in Hell's Kitchen.
- The Genome Soldiers of Metal Gear Solid are enhanced by gene therapy with the genes of Big Boss to have augmented senses and reflexes.
- The entire first game in the Solid series is a Deconstruction of gene therapy (among other things). The end of the game includes a character noting that having the genes necessary to succeed means nothing if you don't have the mentality. And Snake himself is supposed to be a living example: despite receiving "all the recessive genes" and being an inferior clone of Big Boss, he is perhaps the greatest soldier in the world.
- In Metroid, Samus gets this a lot. She first was augmented with Chozo DNA as a kid to help her survive on their planet after the race adopted her. Later on, she's also transfused with Metroid DNA to save her life after being infected by the X-virus.
- This happens quite a lot in Geneforge, as skill canisters manufactured by the titular Geneforge can enhance the abilities of anyone who absorbs their contents by re-writing their genetic structure. However, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity...
- The mysterious Jove race of EVE Online became masters of gene manipulation and other bioengineering, transforming themselves into emotionless, quasi-superhumans. It's since bitten them in the rear, as they suffer from a degenerate disease that threatens to wipe them out.
- Genetic enhancement is fairly commonplace in Mass Effect, but is strictly regulated by Council law. Enhancing existing abilities is legal; adding new ones is illegal. Alliance soldiers routinely undergo genetic enhancement upon entering the military, and almost all children are screened before or just after birth and provided treatments to fix genetic defects. In addition, there now exist "designer babies", children of the wealthy that were engineered from the ground up to be better than normal humans. In some places they're the equal of any other human, in others they're regarded as little more than property.
- Mass Effect 2 squadmate Miranda Lawson is one of these "designer babies", and shows why it's not such a good idea. You can also pick up a "krogan retrovirus" upgrade, which alters the genetic code in squadmate Grunt to increase his health.
- The SPARTAN-II supersoldiers, at 14, underwent a laundry list of enhancements that made them physically and mentally superior to all other humans—those that survived the process, that is. Even so, damage remains in that they lack interest (and, through implication, ability) in sex.
- The list of enhancements to SPARTAN-IIIs is even longer, as their instructor, a SPARTAN-II, got tired of watching his students get slaughtered in suicide missions and added a few illegal enhancements to make them highly resistant to pain.
- In the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, various kinds of Super Soldiers are created via bioengineering and ruthless human experimentation.
- The most extreme case is Sephiroth, who is technically human, but with truly bizarre DNA since he was altered in the womb with Jenova cells and infused with mako energy.
- Genesis and Angeal from Crisis Core were products of Project G (a less successful Shinra research project that competed with Project S which produced Sephiroth) which also involved the use of Jenova cells and mako in developing fetuses.
- SOLDIERs such as Zack Fair and experimental subjects such as Cloud Strife are the result of modifying humans with both Jenova cells and Mako.
- Vincent Valentine was originally human, but was modified by both Hojo and Lucrecia Crescent into a deadly shapeshifter.
- Also from Dirge of Cerberus, the Deepground soldiers and Tsviets were results of various bioweapon experiments.
- In Drowtales this is what the all-female Jaal'darya clan is (in)famous for. Well, this and Organic Technology.
- Spacetrawler: Yuri gets part of an Eeb brain implanted into her own, in order to gain greater technological understanding and limited telekinesis. And she gets cat ears, because she wants to be a Cat Girl.
- The K-Series soldiers in Elf Blood were designed before birth to have bodies ultra-compatible with Magitek implants. They were quite successful.
- In Jet Dream, Virus-X gives T-Girls enhanced strength, agility, and endurance in addition to its most obvious effect.
- Many characters in Schlock Mercenary get various strength and resiliancy boosts, due to their occupations as soldiers or mercenaries. More than a few characters end up getting full-body makeovers (turning a very runtish character into The Big Guy, for example). Later on, some characters learn too late that this process can turn them into unwitting bio weapons.
- Alpha, a recurring villain on the Men In Black cartoon, collected alien body parts which he stuck onto himself.
- In The Spectacular Spider Man, Kraven the Hunter is created by Sergei Kravinoff having himself injected with an "electrolized" DNA formula of various jungle cats, turning himself from a Badass Normal, to a formidable feline supervillain.
- Batman The Animated Series has Manbat. Unfortunately, With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
- Transformers Animated: This was the goal of Prometheus Black, who wanted to prove that people could measure up to Professor Sumdac's robots. Unfortunately, his investors bailed out after a PR stunt turned into a disaster. One rage-induced Freak Lab Accident later, he's a supervillain with a grudge against both the Autobots and the Sumdac family.
- The New Batman Adventures episode Critters gives us augmented farm critters and pests, including giant bugs preprogrammed to 'die' after a particular length of time. Originally microbiologist Farmer Brown was only out to augment cattle and other farm animals to provide more and better food; a PR event gone awry resulted in a court ordernote preventing him from experimenting in Gotham. So Brown & daughter move to extortion by threat of bio-augmented monster animals.
- Batman Beyond: Genetic splicing and other kinds of augmentation were a running theme on the show.
- An episode of deals with Terry fighting a group of teenagers who were spliced with animal DNA to take on certain animal traits. Other splicers are seen throughout the series.
- A crossover episode with Static Shock also featured the "Splicers," however they seemed to be only using lizard DNA in that episode.
- The Kobra cult tried to use dinosaur DNA to create a new race of reptile-people and take over the Earth.
- An Ace the Bat-hound centered episode involved a dogfighting ring full of biologically-altered dog-monsters.
- In Spider-Man The Animated Series, Kingpin turned to this for his living weapons after a few too many failures by Smythe's robots. They were made by Herbert Landon, who was introduced accidentally turning himself into an electricity-eating, city-wrecking Kaiju. (Mostly got better, but spent rest of series looking like Two-Face.) When Smythe turned against Kingpin, Landon captured him and had him upgraded into his Ultimate Slayer form.
- Parodied in a scene from the episode "Abducted" of Invader Zim, the aliens believed by duct taping a gopher to Zim's head they were fusing him and possibly making him more powerful.