RNA Reprogramming

Min didn’t feel any different. However, as she awoke on the cold operating table, her mind began to make sense of the fact that so much had changed. The procedure had to be invasive since the root of her cancer was deep in the bone marrow. Min glanced at the recovery room clock and saw that the procedure had taken nearly six hours. She was still too groggy to make out what the doctors were saying, but the smiles on their faces indicated things went well.

She’d been fighting a rare genetic variant of Multiple Myeloma for years and after countless treatments, her gena-oncologist informed her that she was down to one final option. Dr. Patel warned her that it was an experimental procedure, though already showing great results. To Min, it sounded no different from a stem cell transplant, but Dr. Patel assured her it was.

We’re going to change your DNA… not just in one place, but everywhere. We don’t have to get every cell, but we need to get enough of the marrow in different parts of your body so that when the old cells die off, the RNA is replacing them with the new designer cells. You’ll feel sick for months after the procedure because your body will be fighting itself as the new cells push out the old. However, when we’re done, it’ll be like you never had Myeloma.

Already, they were sterilizing and isolating her since the incisions over her entire body would need to heal in isolation while her immune system was weak. She had months ahead of what the doctor described as an experience worse than chemo, but that wasn’t what worried Min the most.

They had shown Min the new gene sequences, but it meant nothing to her. She asked Dr. Patel if it could accidentally change other things about her – her hair, her weight, her personality? He said it didn’t work that way, but there was a hesitation in his tone that worried Min.

As she was wheeled down the long corridor, florescent lights flickering overhead, Min was filled with a sense of fear. She had mentally prepared herself for the long road to recovery ahead, but she hadn’t prepared herself for this feeling inside. Was she changed? Was she different? No matter how much she was assured or how hard she tried, those questions wouldn’t go away.


  • What are the mental health considerations of increasingly invasive health procedures?
  • What are the ethical implications of genetically modifying people’s DNA?