Just when we were starting to believe radioactive spider bites and blasts of gamma radiation can only result in an untimely death and a definite lack of awesome superhuman abilities, one Stanford biologist named Sebastian Alvarado has restored our faith in the blurred lines between science fiction and science fact. For those of us who are more ‘HULK SMASH!’ than ‘science bros,’ Alvarado has broken down the modern day science that can be used to create a true Marvel legend, just like Captain America, in real life. Which means a lot less of this:
And a LOT more of this:
However, it should be noted that before turning our dreams into a reality, the Stanford scientist explicitly states NOT to try this at home – even if you happen to have a science lab at your disposal.
As any Cap fan knows, Steve Rogers was lucky enough to gain his abilities with the aid of a ‘Super-Soldier Serum,’ which drastically enhanced his strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, healing ability, and tolerance to fatigue poisons. In reality, this change is called ‘epigenetic modification,’ a science used to modify genetic attributes. In other words, epigenetic modification can be used to achieve ‘peak physical fitness’ – which is the prime purpose of the super-soldier serum.
In Captain America: The First Avenger (remaining faithful to the comic book’s origin story), the epigenetic modification of Steve Rogers is perhaps the ultimate zero-to-hero tale of the MCU. Steve Rogers is injected with the ‘Super-Soldier Serum’ before being blasted with vita-rays. This may sound like they’ve just put Cap in some kind of microwave for superheroes but, as Sebastian Alvarado points out, there is an incredible similarity between Cap’s origin and the way this can really be achieved with present day technology.
“What’s really interesting about [Cap’s origin] is that it ties in to a lot of interesting approaches to pharmacotheraphy. There are a lot of photosensitive carriers of drugs that exist in development”
Which is pretty amazing when you consider Captain America’s origin story was written in 1941. However, the science behind Cap’s creation falls short with the fact that nobody knows what is inside the super-soldier serum. But Alvardo expands on this point to offer an explanation, or at the least, an alternative to the mysterious serum. His solution: repetitively branched molecules known as dendrimers…
“If you shoot UV light at [dendrimers], they actually break up. So anything they’re carrying gets released into the tissue they are currently embedded in. So if you imagine one of these nano carriers carrying everything he needs, let’s say his genome editing tools to turn on the right genes for increase muscle mass… You put it in [Steve Roger’s muscle] and zap him with these vita-rays or UV light… You can specifically activate these molecules to release their load and have a very specific function…”
Functions such as… super strength, stamina, speed and agility!
And there we have it, the real science behind Captain America! Of course, some would say that this unnatural practice is dangerous and only worked out so well for S.H.I.E.L.D and Steve Rogers because of Cap’s good nature, strong morals and sense of humanity. But on the other hand…
…GIVE ME THE SUPER-SOLDIER SERUM NOW!
Whose superhero ability would you most like to see in real life? Let me know in the comments section.