Scientists Debate the Creation of a Real-Life Frankenstein’s Monster

Joel Eisenberg

Though the issue is repeatedly met with moral outrage from some members of the general public, the science of reanimation is continuing.

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Boris Karloff in “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935)Universal Studios Publicity Still

Author’s Note

This article is based on accredited medical, science, and media reports. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I will share knowledge but will offer no personal opinion on this matter herein.

All listed theories and facts shared within this article are fully-attributed to said outlets, including NBCNews.com, Brittanica.com, Yale Medical School, The Institute of Human Anatomy, Palatinate.org.uk, BigThink.com, and Google.com.

Introduction

NewsBreak recently published my article, “Scientists Reanimate Dead Pig Cells, Reported as a Breakthrough For Medical Science and a Moral Issue For Others,” which stated: Since the days of Mary Shelley and her breakthrough novel “Frankenstein,” and H.P. Lovecraft with his “Herbert West–Reanimator,” from which the successful 1985 film “Re-Animator” was based, the return to life of previously dead cells has long been the stuff of science fiction. However, recent developments resulting from pig experimentation have not only proven the prescience of those works, but are leading the general public to question just how far doctors and scientists should go with these new advancements.

The article went on to discuss the controversial results of that pig experimentation: In 2019, Yale researchers were able to keep pig brains alive for hours after death. When the news hit the press, outrage on the part of the religious public was high, but gradually subsided. However, earlier this month a new advancement was made that has caused increased consternation and excitement at once: Pig brains were veritably reanimated.

My article excerpted an August 3 article from NBCNews.com, “Scientists Reanimate Dead Cells in Pigs, a Potential Breakthrough For Organ Transplants,” which shared what had become headline news that day for many major media outlets. When the heart stops beating, blood flow is cut off from the body in a process called ischemia and a cascade of biochemical effects begins. Oxygen and nutrients are cut off from tissues. Cells begin to die. It’s a path toward death that causes damage that scientists have considered irreversible. The new research challenges that idea. “The demise of cells can be halted,” Dr. Nenad Sestan, a professor of neuroscience at the  Yale School of Medicine and an author of the new research, said during a news conference. “We restored some functions of cells across multiple organs that should have been dead.” 

The experimentation on pigs is reportedly a first step to such progress with humans.

Let us explore.

Reanimation, 2022

Brittanica.com features an archived article on its webpage, entitled “The Real Science Behind Frankenstein.” The article elaborates on the early 17th century science that inspired the literary creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster: Despite the fact that she was only a teenager when she wrote the first draft of her story about a doctor who creates a monster made from parts of corpses, Mary Shelley was well acquainted with the medical science of her time. Two contemporary scientific advances—both of which were concerned with probing the boundaries between the living and the dead—figure prominently in the novel. The first was the discovery that it was sometimes possible to resuscitate people who appeared to have died by drowning, and the second was the emerging field of electrophysiology, which investigated the effects of electricity on animal tissues.

Can We Actually Build Frankenstein’s Monster?” a YouTube video from The Institute of Human Anatomy, asks the question of whether science can, in real life today, build such a creature.

The conclusion is, though we are rapidly advancing the science to do so, alchemy was involved in the novel, which leads the commentator to suggest such an act of made-made creation will not be happening anytime soon.

However, a comprehensive piece from Palatinate.org.uk, “Frankenstein: The Science of Reanimation,“ takes into consideration the recent pig experimentation and also addresses the possibility. While this outlet too says “no” for now, they end their piece with a question that can fairly be considered an open door: Cells, tissues, and organs are just one part of the equation of creating life, and the part they play in conscience and sentience is just as debatable as when Shelley first questioned it in 1818. It is uncertain if other cells could similarly be revived after death, but if brain cells are only the start it is impossible to say what other organs could be revived long after the tissue has died.

Finally, per BigThink.com’s “Hey Bill Nye! Could Scientists Today Create Frankenstein’s Monster?” the matter may not be so cut and dry: Connected moving tissue like hands and fingers are much further into the future. CRISPR is another incredible technology that’s only in its infancy. It’s a genetic engineering cut-and-paste methods that allows genes to be manipulated to basic desires. Once that technology is developed, we may be able to create genetic supermen and women in the womb, and it likely has applications beyond what we can currently imagine. The potential for what humans can create is immense, and will be a lot sleeker looking than a flesh and thread patchwork a la Frankenstein.

Conclusion

They are not there yet, but scientists continue to explore frontiers where some believe man is attempting to play God.

What scientists have addressed, as a targeted Google search will verify, is the closer they get to building a variant of Frankenstein’s monster, the louder the outcry from some factions of the general public will likely be.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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