We once used superheroes as foils for our dreams. Now we are prepared to move beyond dreams to a new reality.‘Chasing Captain America’, by Dr. E. Paul Zehr, pg. 26.
Recall that in the comic book series, a young, frail Steve Rogers is administered the ‘Super Soldier Serum’ by Dr. Abraham Erskine, which is then activated by Vita-rays, turning Steve Rogers into the Captain America superhero.
Dr. Zehr’s book, ‘Chasing Captain America’, is centered around contemporary biological technologies (primarily) that might be employed to create superhuman abilities, like Captain America had, in these four areas: brain function, body shape, longevity, and movement.
With this context, here are our top six biotechnology takeaways from this book:
Dr. Zehr mentions that current day CRISPR-Cas9, Talens, and zinc-finger nucleosis gene editing technologies could potentially be used to edit Steve Roger’s genes to give him enhanced abilities, such as increased aerobic performance, injury recovery, increased work ability, muscle size and strength, etc.
Apparently, it may also soon be possible to replace entire genes or genomes, which could ultimately have the affect of modifying an individual’s entire morphology, or shape, and function. But for now, it looks as if the CRISPR gene editing technology is mostly relegated to labs and research studies at this current time.
Genetic engineering is one field of technology I have not paid much attention, admittedly. This is definitely an area I need to spend more time learning about. Of particular interest to me was learning about the comparison of genetic sequencing and associated costs to Moore’s Law. The dramatic drop in the cost of mapping our individual genomes should make it easier for individuals to discover more about their genetics and potential associated health issues in our genes, maybe someday helping to identify customized improvements to the same.
Here is one of George Church’s companies providing personalized gene sequencing services: Nebula Genomics.
The promise of this technology, near-term, is hopefully in helping people be more proactive in identifying potential health issues lurking in their genetic makeup.
Myostatin and activin A are found in your muscles and they are both chalones - factors secreted by your cells to suppress excessive growth.‘Chasing Captain America’, by Dr. E. Paul Zehr, pg. 26.
The protein Myostatin acts as a regulator for muscle growth and size. If you were to remove this protein, your muscle growth would likely be unbounded - and, you would not have to workout hard to see tremendous muscle growth results. The downside to this, however, is that all of your muscles would grow unchecked, including your heart, which would be bad.
Apparently mutations of Myostatin and activin A are quite common among animals, but are not common in humans.
Relative to improving brain function, Dr. Zehr references a paper, (Donor/Recipient Enhancement of Memory in Rat Hippocampus), documenting a study in which research scientists were able to transmit memories between rat animal models using hippocampus stimulation to transfer the memory. This kind of reminded me of the scene in ‘The Matrix’ where Neo learns Kung Fu from a neural implant.
Speaking of neural implants, this is also interesting.
The Vita-ray used to activate the Super Soldier Serum administered to Steve Rogers is not outside the realm of science either. I was interested to learn of a new term: photobiomodulation. Photobiomodulation refers to the use of light to change biological function. Apparently, our cells perform photobiomodulation by using the sun’s light energy to help repair themselves.
Heliotherapy has actually been a thing at least since the time of Greek philosopher, Herodotus, and may be useful in treating skin ailments such as psoriasis.
There is, or was, a company called Biolux Research, that made products meant to assist healing in the the dental markets using photobiomodulative techniques.
Rapamyacin is a compound derived from a soil bacterium found on Easter Island. It has been found to prolong the life of some animals in studies and is shown to help with organ transplants in humans. It is not widely used by humans at this time due to possible side effects. Nevertheless, it is interesting to learn that possible life extending compounds have been discovered in the soil of a remote island in the Pacific Ocean.
Synthetic Biology is a growing field of engineering whereby biological components and systems can be made (rather than evolved).
There are even annual competitions to help educate the world on the current state of the art in this field and to help push associated envelopes out even further.
The field of biotechnology and genomics is fast moving and exciting, offering tremendous potential to change life as we now know it. Hopefully, these changes are for the better, as Home sapiens strive to turn mythology into reality.
Yet, even without changing our genetics or injecting ‘Super Soldier Serum’ into our bloodstream, the mythological characters of our fantasies serve as role models, exhibiting characteristics we strive to adopt ourselves. As such, they tend to motivate the elevation of the human condition by magnifying our dreams and extending the reach of our mortal capabilities through shear desire, spirit, grit and even faith.
Some Interesting Definitions
|Homo sapiens||“wise man” or “knowing man”|
|Eusociality||Term used to describe the highest level of organization in human society|
|Hayflick limit||A biological limit on the number of times a cell can replicate, which is around 50x|
|Senescence||Biological ageing; basically starts as soon as life begins|
|Apoptosis||Deliberate cell death|
|Gene||Part of a DNA molecule|
|Genome||The total DNA in a cell|
|CRISPR||Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat|
|chalone||Any of several polypeptides that are produced by a body tissue and that cause the reversible inhibition of mitosis in the cells of that tissue.|
- Steve Rogers
- What does it mean to be human?
- Homo sapiens
- The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database
- Cellular senescence
- Craig Venter
- George Church
- Nebula Genomics
- Gene Drives
- Zinc-finger nucleases
- What is CRISPR-Cas9
- Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature And Ourselves
- Donor/Recipient Enhancement of Memory in Rat Hippocampus
- The Harvard Personal Genome Project
- How Do Neural Implants Work
- Per ardua ad astra
- Asteroid or Meteor
- Ice Age
- Chance That COVID-19 Vaccines Are Gene Therapy? ‘Zero’
- Hereditary muscular hypertrophy in the bovine
podcast learning entrepreneurship innovation learning personal growth intelligence fitness racing sports competition iron man batman captain america stan lee e. paul zehr craig venter george church genetics genomics superhuman homo sapiens