This is one of a series of questions dealing with the magic explained below:

In my fantasy world, magic is an energy similar to radiation. It alters the DNA of living cells, causing them to mutate or die. There are people in this world capable of controlling the magic. They can control the change, using magic either to kill cells, or change them in a host of beneficial ways. For example, they might give themselves night vision by altering their own eye cells.

This particular question deals with the repercussions of the above-mentioned magic users playing with the chemical functions of human cells. Assuming that they can alter a cell to control/halt its production of a chemical, what could they do? What would the limits be?

The users can cause the cells to increase, decrease, or halt production of a chemical. Also, if it is scientifically possible, they can alter the cells DNA sufficiently so that it produces different chemicals. Note that these chemicals are real chemicals which are really produce-able by cells.

Note that they are altering cells, not creating new ones or outright controlling the cells. These changes are slow, natural alterations - aside from the fact that they are prompted by magic-users. All the user is doing is altering a group of cells, perhaps over a wide area, and then leaving. The actual rate of production of chemicals is entirely up to the cells. The cells are left to multiply and spread the magical alterations naturally.

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    $\begingroup$ You mean something like BioSteel ("a high-strength fiber-based material made of the recombinant spider silk-like protein extracted from the milk of transgenic goats", Wikipedia)? Or do you mean altering human DNA so that they could, for example, synthesize vitamin C and other essential amino acids? Both are perfectly possible. Neither has anything to do with "altering the chemical balance of the human body": you really really do not want to alter the chemical balance of the human body. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 15, 2017 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I'm talking about altering cells so they produce more, less, or none of a certain chemical cells can produce. For example, some cells produce dopamine. A user could increase or decrease that production. That would have effects on the victim. I would imagine there is also a chemical which could be raised to toxic levels, causing sickness or even death. However, I don't know the full capabilities someone playing with chemical production in the body could attain. For example, could increasing/decreasing production of a chemical be beneficial? Hence the question. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2017 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ 'Chemical balance' might be a misleading phrase. If it is, let me know so I can change it. Or better yet, suggest an alternative. :) $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2017 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ Look at your example more closely. Yes, some cells produce dopamine. Dopamine is used as a signalling mechanism. In the brain it is used as neurotransmitter; elsewhere, it's used to carry simple messages between components of some specific system, for example "you, blood vessel, widen yourself to increase blood flow", "hey, pancreas, slow down insulin production", or "dear kidney, please excrete more sodium". Blindly increasing the production of dopamine would be like a DDOS on the Internet... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 15, 2017 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like genetic engineering by magic. The real trick would be not just the manipulation of cellular functions by magic, but knowing how to produce specific changes. The magic is ordinary hand-waving, but the rest is molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Sep 15, 2017 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


First of all, people could possibly manipulate other people's cells too? In that case, this add a lot of possibilities:

  • Warfare and terrorism: Evil magic controllers could manipulate body functions of a group of people to severely cripple, enslave or simply kill them. In a war there could be a "magic platoon", responsible to make the bodies of enemy soldiers get tired by stimulating their muscle cells to produce lactic acid, or apatic by altering the balance of their neurotransmitters. Magic manipulating slavers could also benefit from these two ideas: Instead of enslaving people by force, they would just fiddle with their neurochemicals and body hormones to turn them into weak and obedient people, much easier to enslave. Also, for warfare or terrorism, this kind of magic could enhance soldiers' abilities, by giving them eyes more tuned to seeing at night, stronger muscles, more stamina, increased lung capacity and etc.

  • Healthcare: In the opposite side of the spectrum, these biomagicians (can I call your characters like that?) could use their abilities to heal people. They of course wouldn't be able to regrow lost limbs, or save a patient with a serious gunshot to the brain, but they could help a lot in minor ailments and with the overall recovery. They could, for example, foster the production of antibodies and white cells in patients with infections and speed up the recovery of cuts and burn injuries by bumping up the production of platelets, or by superpowering them. This isn't creating new cells. Platelets, white cells and antibodies are all produced in the body, it would be just the case of altering the cells responsible for the production of these super powered variants.

  • Recreational uses: Magic hippies could alter their cells to make them cause hallucinatory effects on themselves and on others. If they're human or anything resembling human, certainly someone would had tried this.

  • $\begingroup$ Would victims of this magic (i.e. The slaves) pass on these changes genetically? Or would their children still be normal? (So basically, would alteration of the DNA be passed on? $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2017 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ I believe the only way to make these changes hereditary is if the magic could alter the genetic code of the affected individual. In your question you said only the cells would be altered, so I tried to stick with it. However, if the magic-induced changes were hereditary, this would add a very interesting twist, because you could suddenly enslave entire generations of people, and the slaves would need a benevolent wizard to revert the changes and free them. $\endgroup$
    – Eduardo W.
    Sep 15, 2017 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ Forgive my lack of knowledge on the subject, but is altering the DNA the same as altering the genetic code? My theory at the moment is that the magic alters the cells by altering the DNA. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2017 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas Myron The DNA for a specific organism tells that organism what to be. The "magic" happens in that each cell contains the same DNA, but become different types of cells with different functions. Altering the DNA itself within, say, a stomach cell, whether for good effect or bad, is not going to become a hereditable change that can be passed on to offspring. The gametocytes (reproductive sex cells) still have the same unaltered DNA within them. Does that help understand? $\endgroup$
    – N2ition
    Sep 16, 2017 at 16:06

This magic will be useless on the hand of non biology-related "wizard".

Well, not exactly useless. If you use it offensively, you can kill virtually anyone, unnoticed.

  1. Introduce cancer by shutting down the genes inducing apoptosis. Though the original idea is to make them more prone to cancer, I believe this will create even more serious issue before they develop cancer.

  2. Persuade them to do suicide by inducing depression. You can also get creative and manipulate this person instead, for example you can pretend to be a psychiatrist and prescribe truth serum to extract information from the victim.

  3. Why thinking so hard? Just hammer the brain cells! Damage the DNA a bit, and they will start killing themselves ASAP. (Read apoptosis link above)

If you handwave your character to magically gain the knowledge of how stuffs work inside the body:

  1. You can virtually become ageless immortal.
  2. You can fix cancer cells by returning them to normal cells.
  3. You can fix any hereditary disease.

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