Thursday, August 7, 2014

Anime Biology

August 8, 2014

               Welcome to Anime Science 101 where any and all science concepts found in your favorite anime will be poked prodded and thoroughly examined to determine their veracity.  Now before the non-science types run away screaming, I will be keeping the science material to the middle school and high school level so all are welcome.  Each concept will be examined using the following format, plausible, confirmed and busted.  Warning given the nature of this blog spoilers may occur for the purpose of explaining a particular topic, but I will limit them as much as possible.

Plausible- While the idea depicted in anime is not currently true it could potentially happen in the future, when technology advances, or could happen in nature in the future given certain circumstances.
Confirmed- The idea as depicted in anime is true and currently occurs in nature or is something we are currently able to do
Busted- It does not currently occur in nature and is something that is impossible to accomplish or build.
               Now a few words about my background and how Anime Science 101 began.  I am a former medical school student and current anime addict turned science teacher for the last six years.  It is my students who first planted the idea for this blog into my brain as they were the ones to first ask me if what they saw depicted in anime could possibly be true.  My adorable little seventh graders asked if a person could naturally have blue, pink, or silver hair and if you could genetically modify people to make them superior to normal people.  If there are any mecha fans reading this then I am sure you know what series they were watching, Gundam Seed, which just so happens to be one of my favorites.  When I asked if he was referring to Kira from the aptly named show, one third of the class cheered, one third groaned my teacher is a dork, and the last third asked what the hell is he talking about and furiously wrote everything down.  From then on I had a number of students at rapt attention and some interesting questions.

               My first post will be in their honor delving into the reason why Rau Le Creuset from Gundam seed had debilitating bouts of pain, and needed to take an unknown medication.  Tsunade from Naruto will also be mentioned for her Creation Rebirth technique.

The Hayflick Limit

               The Hayflick limit was discovered in 1961 by Dr. Leonard Hayflick and refuted the prevailing of the day that animal cells were for all purposes immortal.  In simple terms the Hayflick limit is the maximum number of times that an animal cell can divide.  In humans this turns out to be around 60 times before the cell can no longer divide.  This limit in the number of times a cell can divide to due to a shortening of the cells telomeres.

               Telomeres are segments of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes (the green segments in the picture above).  They can be thought of as the blank pages you find at the beginning and end of a book, if they get ripped out you do not lose any of the story.  Unlike a book where the blank pages remain in place for the life of the book, telomeres shorten every time a cell divides until the segments are worn down to nothing as a person ages.  Thus as a person ages the telomeres shorten and has everything to do with Rau Le Creuset and Tsunade.

               Rau Le Creuset is the 28 year old ace pilot and commander from ZAFT who needs to take medication to manage unnamed but clearly debilitating symptoms due to his being a clone.  A clone is an organism whose DNA is identical to the original and at the present time the technology does not exist to create a human clone.  It has been done with other animals such as sheep, shown below.

               Now sheep have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, but Dolly only lived for 7 years despite being born healthy.  The reason for this is due to the genetic age or the telomere length of the donor sheep.  While Dolly was only seven years old chronologically the DNA in her cells was 12 years old effectively shortening her lifespan.  Commander Creuset stated to be 28 years old in Gundam Seed (pictured on the left), and we can assume due to having a child Al Da Flaga (pictured on the right) was likely between 30-50 when he had a clone created.

               This makes Creuset’s genetic age somewhere between 58 to 78 years old.  While the commander still looks young his cells are entering or are well into old age by the start of Gundam Seed.  The medication he is seen taking is most likely being used to treat the cellular breakdown of his own body.  While these medications do not exist at this time there is no scientific reason why drugs to treat cellular breakdown and the degradation of DNA will not exist at some point in the future.

               While the technology to create and treat the medical conditions faced by cloning the science is there so the existence of Rau Le Creuset is ruled


               Now for the Naruto fans out there we have Tsunade and her Creation Rebirth technique both shown below.  The following is taken from the Naruto wiki as I haven’t seen the mange volume or anime episode that covers this.  The creation rebirth technique is a skill where Tsunade uses her chakra to stimulate the rapid growth and development of new cells instead of regenerating old cells.

               The actual technique is not what is going to be covered here but the stated downside of this skill, namely shortening her lifespan.  The healing of injuries by using rapid cell division would quickly cause the cells of the body to reach the Hayflick limit raising the individual’s genetic age faster and higher than their chronological age, effetely giving Tsunade the same problem’s faced by Rau Le Creuset and Dolly the sheep.  It also makes her look extremely old given the way other characters react to her true form (sorry no picture guys).  As such while the actual technique is not possible but the side effects of that skill are 

               Thank you for reading and questions, comments, or suggestions are welcome.

               Oh and if anyone is interested in Mongolia you can check out my Musings on Mongolia blog