I've been reading some texts about synthetic biology and how to produce Human Artificial Chromosome (HAC), and I was wondering if we could develop some kind of device that "reprogrammed" the genes of the living cells of our skin to for example change its color and reverse aging (some kind of "artificial biological reprogramming").

Would this be possible?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome. Please do take the time to take the tour in the help center. It might help you focus your question. It is an interesting question but currently I think it is [too broad] and [high concept]. Answers could write a book as a response and could still not answer everything. The best option, after taking the tour, is to try figure it out yourself, and then come back to us with a particular problem you are having adjusting it to your world. I also suggest you try out the Worldbuilding Meta and [sandbox] for other advice and the chat rooms. Enjoy your time here. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Apr 24 '18 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! As a friend of mine once said, "given enough time and money, anything is possible." A better question would be, "is this believable?" and it would need the addition of a description of the technology you're proposing (you have a good start, but it should be fleshed out). Keep in mind, we're here to help you build a believable fictional world, but we're not here to help you write the story. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 24 '18 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that in Startrek there was an outlawed method of genetically enhancing a living organism. Can't remember the name. As far as I know G.M. is currently not possible on already living developed organisms. Am I wrong? $\endgroup$ – Nuloen The Seeker Apr 24 '18 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Does it have to be "reprogramming genes"? Retinol, a.k.a. Vitamin A1, reverses aging in skin by speeding up the lifecycle of cells, and is commonly found in cosmetics and acne medicine. $\endgroup$ – user71659 Apr 24 '18 at 23:27

'Reprogramming' genes can already be done both by nature in the form of random mutation and artificially using techniques like gene splicing.

In order to change skin color this could be done to a certain degree just based on dietary changes, but I see no reason why it couldn't be influenced to a heavy degree through gene splicing, I'm almost certain you could find experiments with rodents for this.

As far a reversing aging goes, I believe this has to do with cell senescence, basically when the cell decides its reached its replicative limit and stops dividing. Some cells already are able to at least resist this, for example cancer cells express increased rate of division and continue to reproduce beyond their expected limit, the last I remember hearing this was attributed to genetic mutation.

If these things can happen on their own already I see no reason why, with enough study, science couldn't reproduce this in controlled fashion.


You might want to look in to the current ways people change their skin colour, mainly, skin whitening. If you are imagining a reality where subdermal implant technology is efficient and safe enough, it wouldn't be a huge stretch to imagine that the population has found out compounds which allow you to rapidly inhibit or promote melanin production, resulting in a change of your skin colour.

You could also toy around with the idea of using an extreme case of carotenosis as a way of changing your skin colour by injecting large amounts of chromophores to your bloodstream. You could then engineer different chromophores to obtain different colours.


This can already be done, we live in the the 21th century, look up the various gene modification techniques used today.

If you want to worldbuild a futuristic world better first invest some time to see what technologies already exist, this could save you a lot of time and open you up to new ideas.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! When you have a moment, please take our tour and review our help center. Please note that this is an incomplete answer. Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. It is a family of Q&A sites that are meant to answer not just the current OP's question, but act as a reference for future users. Therefore, to substantiate your answer, you need to provide links and summaries to the existing technology demonstrating that it can, indeed, be achieved with today's technology. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 25 '18 at 21:09

Nature has already done that for you. Behold:


This is the Adenovirus:

Adenoviruses (members of the family Adenoviridae) are medium-sized (90–100 nm), nonenveloped (without an outer lipid bilayer) viruses with an icosahedral nucleocapsid containing a double stranded DNA genome. Their name derives from their initial isolation from human adenoids in 1953.

They have a broad range of vertebrate hosts; in humans, more than 50 distinct adenoviral serotypes have been found to cause a wide range of illnesses, from mild respiratory infections in young children (known as the common cold) to life-threatening multi-organ disease in people with a weakened immune system.

One method of gene experimenting and therapy is to find an adenovirus that can target the cells you wish to modify. Then you replace the virus genes with the ones you wish to insert on the cells:

Adenoviruses have long been a popular viral vector for gene therapy due to their ability to affect both replicating and non-replicating cells, accommodate large transgenes, and code for proteins without integrating into the host cell genome. More specifically, they are used as a vehicle to administer targeted therapy,[24] in the form of recombinant DNA or protein.

So just find some that can attach to skin cells, grow them in a lab, then replace their innards with your intended genes and let them have a go at your victim subject.

Wish to change a skin color? Use genes for some pigment. With thicker skin? Use genes for extra skin fiber. Etc, etc.

I believe this will not do for reversing aging, though. For that, try stem cells instead.


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