If someone might have super-powered immunity to poison (ranging from you can't be poisoned by anything, to immunity to the bite of the North American cottonmouth, and you live in New Zealand), is it feasible for people to set up a system where they take tissue samples for testing?

Known poisons, so they would know what to look for. I was thinking it was more likely to work for hemotoxins than for neurotoxins or heavy metals -- they would find it useful to test for even a few that way.

Edit: This immunity is a full-blown superpower that means you are simply not affected by the poison, just as Superman is not affected by bullets. Unfortunately for the characters, they do not a full-blown superpower to detect what superpowers a person has, so they have to resort to realistic tests.

I was thinking on the order of adding some hemotoxin that destroys red blood cells to a sample of blood, slap it under the microscope, and diagnose based on whether the sample's cells are breaking down. And if so, what sorts of poisons have effects that can be practically tested with tissue samples.

  • $\begingroup$ I was about to answer this off the cuff, but it bears some consideration. Most toxins are detoxified by liver cells. You can grow liver cells in culture. Could you test toxins against liver cells in culture? Maybe it has been done. I need to read more. If someone else reads and beats me to it, post your answer w links! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 1:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ you can't be poisoned by anything that's impossible - the dose makes the poison. E.g. won't be able to avoid CO2 poisoning "CO2 levels of more than 30% act rapidly leading to loss of consciousness in seconds." $\endgroup$ Commented May 14, 2020 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ @AdrianColomitchi: The OP specifies known poisons. This approach will clearly not work for all poisons; for example, lye. But could it work for specific poisons? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


TL;DR It's a superpower; you decide!

Poisons are a general term for a range of substances that are harmful to living creatures. Every poison can attack the body in different ways; but I think, for the sake of your plot, you should differentiate between things that harm through specific chemical pathways, disrupting the body's processes (i.e. a classic poison) vs. things that are just caustic and destructive, like lye or acid. The resistance to poison really depends on how you set up the mechanism; since poison is just a general term for things that harm in millions of different ways, it's a bit difficult to create a scientific method of eliminating them, although you can definitely come up with one. You can always go with the 'traditional' magic route, and it's up to you to decide whether it's some magic that is infused everywhere and hangs around the cells, or only applies when the cells remain attached to the rest of the body (i.e. not a tissue sample). I can suggest though, two "scientific" mechanisms for this to take place. The first is that in a person with this superpower, every cell has an organelle responsible for defense against poison. It simply monitors the cell to check if it's behaving normally. If it's not, then it can detect uncommon chemicals that don't belong in/around the cell (likely poison) and signal the immune system to quickly create the appropriate antigens to disable/eliminate the poison. The people with this superpower will also need an extremely fast immune system to create antigens in time (this can normally take days). In this case, this will not work for tissue samples, because there is no immune system to create antigens. It can detect them, but can't fight them. I think this makes a bit more sense than the next option, because it relies on the existing framework of the immune system to fight the poison. However, if you want it to work in samples, then you can perhaps say that the organelle responsible for defense against poison can also analyze the poison and release RNA with instructions for the ribosomes to create antigens. A lot harder to pull off, because normal cells don't do this; the immune system does. However, this could work even in tissue samples.

So there you are. I've said 3 options for how this superpower could work. You could go with magic, or 2 of the scientific methods I've suggested. Of course there are many more mechanisms that can be thought of, you can come up with your own if you don't like mine. But the answer to your main question of whether or not this will work in tissue samples, this depends completely on the process. It's your decision of whether or not tissue sampling will work; based on that. choose a process that fits your storyline.


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