James Buchanan “Bucky’’ Barnes is a fictional superhero/supervillain character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Also known as the Winter Soldier, he is able to withstand the biological impairment of cryogenic freezing. But how? Well, Ilja Voets and colleagues now answered this question. Following his super-soldier experimentation, they suggested that, the Winter Soldier’s DNA has been modified to such an extent that he can naturally produce Anti-Freeze Glycoproteins (AF(G)Ps) when his body is subjected to freezing temperatures.
“It is possible that during these treatments the Winter Soldier’s DNA has been adequately modified to allow his body to naturally produce the winter flounder type I AFP.”— they said.
They got this idea from Arctic and Antarctic fish species. These species produce AF(G)Ps in two different ways which help them to survive in their cold, ice-laden habitats. First, by lowering the freezing temperature of water in comparison to the melting temperature, creating a temperature gap known as the thermal hysteresis (TH) gap. Second, by the ice recrystallization inhibition (IRI) activity, in which these fishes ingest small ice crystals throughout their life span and their AF(G)Ps block further growth of the internalized ice crystals, enabling the fish to survive despite the presence of small ice grains in their blood and in certain vital organs.
“AF(G)Ps would be a more plausible way to improve cryopreservation given that they inhibit ice recrystallization in marine fish.” they said. “It is likely that the Winter Soldier is injected with some sort of serum or medication prior to being brought in cryostatus in the 2014 film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This serum could contain synthetic cryoprotectants as well as an anaesthetic leading to loss of awareness and external sensation. However, we contend that following his super-soldier experimentation, the Winter Soldier’s DNA has been modified to such an extent that he can naturally produce AF(G)Ps when his body is subjected to freezing temperatures.”
They also hypothesized that, advancement in genetic engineering techniques like CRISPR/Cas9, could be very important for the possible development of genetically advanced humans such as the Winter Soldier in future scientific laboratories. It may be possible to insert the wf-afp gene into human DNA using the CRISPR/Cas9, thus providing the human body with the necessary genetic code to potentially produce the wf-AFP protein. As a result, we would be able to replicate in part the Winter Soldier’s ability to produce proteins to combat ice crystal growth that could arise during cryopreservation.
“However, giving the human body the ability to produce antifreeze proteins when in cryostatus is only part of the story. Unlike the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), scientists in the real world have yet to develop techniques that can resuscitate a person from cryostatus.”— they concluded.
Reference: Suris-Valls, R., Mehmedbasic, M., & Voets, I. K. (2018). Marine Fish Antifreeze Proteins: The Key Towards Cryopreserving The Winter Soldier. Superhero Science and Technology, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.24413/sst.2018.1.2105
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