5 Real People With Mind-Blowing Mutant Superpowers (Part 3)
Everyone wants superpowers. When we're not sitting around daydreaming about ungodly supernatural abilities that can bend the world to our will, we're sitting around lamenting that it's just never going to happen, no matter how many spiders we microwave. But some folks don't have to dream of superhuman abilities, because they already have them. These select groups of gifted individuals, whether they were born better than us or simply became so over time, have abilities that make them stronger, keener, faster ... and probably totally smug about it, too.
An Entire Family Has Bones Stronger Than Granite
Remember that movie Unbreakable, the true secret origin story of Bruce Willis, who discovered he couldn't be harmed after surviving a train wreck? As it turns out, the idea of a guy going his entire life without noticing that nothing can hurt him isn't all that farfetched. In fact, it happened for real back in 1994. A guy known to the public only as John (he's already got that one-word-name mystique down, although he probably could've picked a sexier super-handle) crashed his car and suffered no injuries whatsoever. He went to the hospital anyway, just in case he was internally bleeding, but the X-rays revealed nothing. Well, no fractures, anyway -- they did determine that John had ludicrously dense bones. As in, eight times denser than the average adult.
Naturally, the doctors did the logical thing upon discovering a superpowered mutant: They shrugged, sent the guy home, forgot all about him, and then presumably tried to drink away their crippling apathy. Other than providing an explanation as to why John was never the best swimmer (hey, Unbreakable again!), the medical world pretty much ignored what was, objectively, a medical miracle.
That is, until six years later, when another doctor found another Bruce Willis (are we going to need a plural term? Is it Bruce Willises or Bruce Willii?) who needed a hip replacement, but couldn't get one because nobody could screw the prosthesis into place. The two doctors found each other, compared notes, and realized that they had stumbled on something far more interesting than a solitary super-mutant: a secret race of super-mutants. They traced their patients' family histories and discovered that the two were related. Further investigation revealed that their entire family, scattered up and down the East Coast of the U.S., were all a bunch of indestructible supers. The world could ignore a superior form of humanity for only so long, and scientists eventually began investigating the family. Their conclusion: High bone density stems from a mutation of LRP5, the gene linked to osteoporosis and low bone density.
Holy shit, they even have an ironic origin story!
A Tribe of Sea Nomads Can See Perfectly Underwater
Have you ever opened your eyes underwater without swim goggles? What did it look like? If you can't remember, here's a hint:
That's just us, though -- that boring old human weakness simply does not apply to the Moken, the sea nomads of Southeast Asia. They dive all the time, with eyes wide open, and see everything in crystal-clear high-def. This is especially helpful since they dive in order to catch food, and it's nice to be able to pick up a quick snack without getting attacked by a blurry shark-shaped blob.
Researchers learned of this incredible ability by studying the underwater eyesight of six Moken children. They then compared the results to that of 28 European children. The study found that the Moken children, at the very worst, could see under the sea twice as well as the rest of us. At best, they could see better than some fish.
So how do they do it? It appears to be a simple case of learned evolution. (That's a thing? You can just learn to evolve? Are there ... classes we can sign up for?) See, because the Moken dive all the time, and have done so for just shy of eternity, their irises no longer expand underwater like ours, but rather constrict, enabling them to maintain their on-land resolution.
In other words, they decided they wanted superpowers and then practiced every day until they got them. And yet when we tied a sheet around our necks and tried to Superman off the roof, all we got was a ground sandwich.
Some African Prostitutes Are Immune to HIV
Hold on to your monocles, we're about to reveal some very shocking information: Life as an African prostitute is not the best.
Very few clients use condoms, and STDs (particularly HIV) are an everyday workplace hazard. Well, unless you have super immunity. What? That is too a thing: There are certain prostitutes in Africa who are exposed to HIV just about every day, and yet never contract it. They won the superhuman lottery, but lost the prize draw. They didn't get laser vision or cat's paws instead of hands; they get to not die of a terrible disease. We guess it's not the worst consolation prize.
Researchers visited Kenya and Gambia and studied the sexually transmitted disease history of its finest prostitutes. Thanks to barebacking with dozens of different infected men every year, over two-thirds of the prostitutes reported the HIV virus crashing on their couch.
Normally, unprotected sex with an infected partner is like diving into a pond full of alligators, but a few of these women actually survived the gator pond, then did it again, and again. After a few years, they were laughing and playing Marco Polo up in that predatory swimming pool. Despite constant exposure to HIV, a small percentage of the women studied didn't catch it for at least three years, with some evading the little bugger for even longer.
Based on blood tests, scientists determined that the immune ladies had cytotoxic T-cells working triple overtime. These cells stopped any invading HIV cells dead in their tracks, forming a natural shield against the disease -- one that science is all too eager to use as the basis for the long-awaited AIDS vaccine. There's just one issue: The T-cells work only if they're constantly in action. Many of the immune women lost their immunity shortly after leaving prostitution behind. It seems that, at the first sign of peace and quiet, their immune systems let their guard down. So there you go: If you want to be immune to AIDS, just try constantly getting a whole lot of AIDS.*
*Please never, ever listen to our advice.
People Who Live at High Altitudes Have More Strength With Less Oxygen
Out of 7.2 billion people alive today, roughly 140 million live at an altitude 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) or higher. And those people might as well be a whole other goddamn species.
For most humans, prolonged exposure to high altitude leads to a number of unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea, heart disease, delirium, and good old-fashioned death. Survive up there long enough, though, and you begin to evolve past those issues and become stronger. Take Tibet, for example. Over 2,750 years ago, the Tibetan people split from mainland China and decided to live in the mountains instead. At over two and a half miles up, the world is very different indeed. The air is thinner and contains 40 percent less oxygen than the air we lower-landlubbers breathe. Of course, that doesn't mean Tibet is a deadly, unlivable void-space. It's only 40 percent of a deadly, unlivable void-space.
After millennia, Tibetans' bodies adapted to these conditions, bestowing upon them some of the highest endurance levels on the planet. They've done so by pure mutation: The EPAS1 gene normally produces more red blood cells once the body is deprived of oxygen. In Tibetans, the gene actually creates fewer cells in lower-oxygen environments. Now, no scientists have ever said that the following statement is actually true (and for some stupid reason, they call the cops whenever you try to test it), but we're pretty sure that means Tibetans will only get stronger when you suffocate them.
Then there are the Kalenjin people of Kenya: Their forefathers belonged to the Nilotic tribes, and they lived at sea level for thousands and thousands of years. Only recently have the Kalenjin moved to their current home of the Great Rift Valley, at roughly 7,000 feet above sea level. This means that, unlike the Tibetans, whose genetic superpower prevents them from overdeveloping red blood cells, a Kalenjin's body may function like it's constantly adapting to the higher altitude, thus producing a gargantuan amount of red blood cells. When they descend to mere mortal ground, the extra oxygen could very well manifest itself in their most famous attribute: running forever and ever.
Everybody talks about the insane success of Kenyan long-distance runners, but the truth is that most Kenyans have no better stamina than the rest of us. The Kalenjin, who make up 1/10 of the Kenyan population at best, are the reason for the country's reputation -- for every 10 Olympic medals Kenya has won for running, seven are in Kalenjin hands. Of all the world running records held by Kenyans, only one is not held by a Kalenjin. Oh, and in all of recorded history, only 17 Americans have run a marathon in under two hours and 10 minutes. That's pretty neat-o, except for the fact that 32 Kalenjin have done it.
Ecuadorian Dwarfs Don't Get Cancer or Diabetes
Deep in the heart of Ecuador, there is a group of little people known as the Laron Dwarfs. There is one key difference between these and other dwarfs: The Laron Dwarfs never get cancer or diabetes. Ever.
Dr. Jaime Guevara-Aguirre has been studying these people since 1987. In all that time, he found no instances of diabetes whatsoever, and only one occurrence of (non-lethal) cancer. And most Laron Dwarfs don't exactly live the healthiest lifestyles: Many are alcoholics, just about all of them are inbred, and quite a few also suffer from obesity. However, when you account for other, more preventable causes of death (addiction, accidents), you find that the Laron Dwarfs live inordinately long lives. It's an entire group of fat, old, drunken dwarfs who just will not die.
The Laron lack a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor 1. The lack of IGF-1 is apparently the cause of their dwarfism, but it's also the reason they could walk up to the next Chernobyl and run around naked with no ill effects.*
IGF-1 has been shown to increase cancer cells in a body, and studies suggest that reducing or outright removing the hormone can stop the spread of such cells. Since the Laron naturally have extremely limited IGF-1, cancer (and diabetes commonly associated with cancer) just can't get through. True, a Laron Dwarf's condition dashes any and all hope for an NBA career, but that seems like a small price to pay for the first small step toward functional Highlanderism.
*Remember, all of our dear Laron readers: Never take any of our advice.
Related Reading: There are people in this world with real super powers, like this man who can eat anything. And then there's this man who is somehow immune to electric shock. You don't have to be born special to have a superpower, though. This man built himself a jetpack.