5 Mind-Blowing Ways Science Has Hacked the Human Body
Science fiction taught us that when science starts modifying the human body, it's going to involve robot parts and genetic modification gone terrifyingly wrong. But the reality is that the body modifications that are right around the corner are way less frightening and quite a bit more useful. It won't be too many more years before a trip to the doctor can ...
Change Your Eye Color
We'll wager that there are more than a few brown-eyed people out there who feel like they got the short end of the genetic stick. However, eye color is one of those things that you probably thought science could never change. Sure, you can wear colored contacts and pretend you've got blue, gray, or freaking ThunderCats-themed eyes, but the illusion only lasts until you remove the lenses. Well, now there's a doctor in California who claims to have invented a procedure that can permanently turn those dull-as-dirt brown eyes into mesmerizing baby blues, and all it'll take is 40 seconds of your life (plus several thousand dollars).
There are worse ways to spend thousands of dollars in 40 seconds.
How is this even possible, you ask? Does it involve some kind of horrifying eyeball tattoo gun? Actually, it turns out that, technically, everyone has blue eyes. It's just that for the majority of us, our mundane genes decided to squirt a whole mess of brown pigment on top of the blue. But now Dr. Gregg Homer has arrived, laser-guided pigment bomb in hand, to tell your genes to get bent.
Basically, the procedure consists of laser-burning the shit out of the brown pigment in each of your eyes. Then, since your body never planned for the eventuality of sci-fi death rays attacking its irises and therefore never thought to keep an extra supply of eye pigment on hand, it decides to simply chuck the damaged pigment out. In two or three weeks, all traces of brown disappear, and you're left with eyes worthy of a crooner.
With none of the raging alcoholism.
We're sure many of you are scrambling to have your eyeballs lasered by a doctor who sounds like a gag from The Simpsons as soon as humanly possible, but don't get in too much of a rush -- the procedure's still in the testing stages. The good news, though, is that all preliminary tests have turned out well, at least according to Homer. He's tested it on animals, cadavers, and Mexicans (seriously), all without a single complaint. The better news is that if you just can't wait until the procedure gets the official OK from The Man, you can head straight to the not-at-all-evil-sounding Stroma Medical website and volunteer to be a guinea pig for one of the good doctor's trial runs.
A word of warning: As of now, the procedure is permanent, so if for some reason you find your new appearance freakish and want to change it back ... tough shit. Freak.
Who could ever love a monster such as her?
Regrow Your Teeth
As long as there are such things as old people, hockey pucks, and Pixy Stix, tooth loss will remain a concern for us humans. After all, when a tooth is broken or falls out, it's not like when you cut your nails or shave your beard -- that shit ain't growing back. Well, actually, that might not be the case for long, as there are not one, but two teams who've set their sights on taking down the denture industry by regrowing your very own teeth right inside your very own mouth-hole.
So kids: Borrow your dad's pliers and bleed that fairy dry.
First, there's a team from the University of Alberta in Canada (where hockey-related tooth loss strikes virtually every male before age 15) who say they've managed to regrow broken teeth by using ultrasound emitters. Seriously, they just point sound waves at your teeth and they grow back. The procedure worked so well on rabbits that the scientists figured, screw it, why not scale up the difficulty and try it out on an animal whose entire diet isn't just cabbage and water? So they tested a variant of their ultrasound method on humans and found that it worked, even when the root itself was damaged. The system consists of a "miniaturized system-on-a-chip" that constantly barrages the root of your tooth with good tooth vibes as you wear it inside your mouth, and in no time ("no time" meaning "about a year") you're right back to popping beer bottle caps with your pearly whites.
Which also happens to be the mating call of Alberta, Canada.
More recently, a bunch of researchers from Columbia University and Nova Southeastern University in Florida have said they can regrow teeth using dental stem cells. When a patient loses a tooth, the docs simply plop some dental stem cells into a tooth-shaped scaffold and wait for the stem cells to work their magic. The patients can grow the new tooth either inside their own mouth or outside the body, but either way, within nine weeks they've got themselves a shiny new food masher. And no, the stem cells being used for this procedure don't come from embryos. Instead, they're collected from discarded teeth or other "dental waste," which we sincerely hope isn't as gross as it sounds (but probably is).
Stay Alive Without Breathing
Every human has the same huge weakness: If you cut off our air, we die. Disaster is as close as the next piece of triple cheeseburger that goes down the wrong neck hole or Neeson-chop to the throat. It's not like you can take in air any way other than via your lungs -- those frail, spongy bastards pretty much have the market on air intake cornered, you know? Well, a team of researchers at Boston Children's Hospital has found a way to bypass your lazy lungs when they can't be bothered to do their one and only job. They figured that lungs are just the middlemen to get oxygen from the air to the blood, so why not cut them out of the loop and inject oxygen directly into your bloodstream?
"Bullshit!" -The fat cats at "Big Lung"
Now, injecting air directly into the blood is a little tricky. Normally, some nasty side effects can occur if you just straight up shoot air into your veins, like, um ... an agonizing death. So what these guys did was design tiny microparticles that they could fill with oxygen. Then they surrounded those microparticles with lipids (fats) and put them in a liquid solution to help them blend in with the blood. Finally, to test whether or not their Frankenoxygen worked, the docs injected the solution filled with their tiny lifesavers into animals with low blood oxygen levels.
"Jenkins, get in here! It's your turn to strangle Hopper."
When the animals' tracheas were completely blocked, which would normally earn a human a not-so-fashionable throat piercing, the injection of microparticles was able to restore their blood oxygen to completely normal levels in mere seconds. The breathing fix wasn't permanent, as the animals needed to start breathing the old-fashioned way (i.e., not from a hypodermic needle) after 15 minutes. However, for 15 whole minutes, the animals stayed alive without taking a single breath and had a reduced incidence of complications such as heart attacks or other organ injury.
The best part is that, since the solution can be administered via syringe, it's completely portable. This means it can be carried by paramedics and administered within moments of arriving at the scene of the autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong.
It's a bold new day for the sciences of medicine and masturbation.
Instantly End an Addiction
OK, so chances are you're not reading Cracked with your smartphone in one hand while using your teeth to tighten a belt around your "shootin'-up arm," but even so, it's probably not news to you that heroin is one of the most addictive substances in the world. But really, it's all our stupid bodies' fault: Chemicals inside us bond to drugs such as heroin, then release happy juice into our systems, to the point that our bodies crash once the drugs are gone and we end up needing more and more of the stuff. If you're one of the unlucky few whose body happens to bond well with illicit arm candy, there's not a damn thing you can do about it ... except for take a pill to block your addiction, if science has its say.
"Pills? I don't know, I'm kind of picky about what I put into my body."
That's right: A bicontinental team of researchers comprised of Aussies at the University of Adelaide and Yanks at the University of Colorado have managed to rewire the brain and successfully unaddict it to heroin (and morphine, for good measure). How did this team of geniuses accomplish what thousands of hours of interventions, rehab stays, and stern talks from jaded guidance counselors never could? Brain hacking.
Which does not involve an ax, as we learned through some tragic accidents.
The researchers noticed that heroin bonded to an immune receptor named Toll-Like Receptor 4 (TLR4), which acts as "an amplifier for addiction." So they developed a drug called (+)-naloxone (presumably named by an accounting computer that moonlights in pharmaceuticals), which once and for all shuts down that TLR4 asshole, thereby changing the chemistry in the brain and disrupting its addictive tendencies.
You'd think that all this tampering about with your noggin juices could lead to some serious complications, like believing that your wife is a toaster or that The Learning Channel is educational, but the new drug appears to target only TLR4, while leaving all the law-abiding neural receptors intact. As explained by one of the lead scientists, "Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain's wiring." And as if that weren't enough, this new drug is also a great pain reliever. What do you want to bet it will turn out to be addictive?
His new boat is counting on it.
Modify Your Genes ... With a Lotion
Take a second to imagine a future in which it's possible to modify your genes. What did you see? Doctors injecting fetuses with repaired DNA to cure genetic disorders in utero? Big metal tubes that bombard you with new genes until you're required by law to take up a life of crime fighting? Whatever it was, we'd wager a bajillion bucks right now that you didn't picture hand lotion. Yet, if the folks over at Northwestern University have anything to say in the matter, plain old lotion is exactly where the future of gene therapy lies, because they've invented a cream that -- no joke -- alters your freaking genetic makeup when you apply it to your skin. No futuristic sci-fi machines or lengthy hospital visits or gamma rays are involved -- just a cream that you rub on, which then takes a microscopic jackhammer to your double helix.
And if we know anything about jackhammers, it works best at four in the morning.
Now, typically, the skin is a tough barrier for topical creams to cross. What the geniuses at Northwestern had to do to breach this barrier was load the cream up with compounds of nucleic acids, which are about a thousandth the diameter of a human hair. When you apply the cream, these acid structures spelunk their way through the microscopic cracks in your skin and then Batman the shit out of the evil genes lurking in the dark alleyways of your body. The researchers have tested the cream on mice and human skin, and, after a month of usage, there were no nasty side effects and hardly any superpowered mutant mice.
Although the early targets of this new type of gene treatment are cancers (melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, two of the most common types of skin cancers), the researchers say they can program the cream to target tons of disorders by way of gene alteration. For example, psoriasis, aka the pain-in-the-ass scaly skin disease for which there is no cure, could be treated in this manner. Add pretty much all genetic skin disorders and even freaking wrinkles to the list of possible annoyances a cream like this could treat, and we won't be surprised if your future medicine cabinet is nothing but row after row of lotion bottles. Don't confuse the boner cream with the weight loss cream, Future Man.
"Actually, I might need weight loss down there ..." -Dozens of liars in the comments below
You can contact Eddie with writing opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more ways to make yourself superhuman, check out 5 Ways to Trick Your Body Into Being More Awesome and 5 Ways To Hack Your Brain Into Awesomeness.
Speaking of hacking your brain, check out this video from this article's sponsor, Virgin Mobile.