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Stanford Biologist Scientifically Explains How Captain America And The Hulk Got Their Powers

The short, short version of both Captain America and The Incredible Hulk‘s origin stories is simply, “science.” Steve Rogers got injected with a serum that made him the perfect human specimen; Bruce Banner absorbed a bunch of gamma radiation that made him turn into a big, green (or sometimes gray) guy.

For decades, comics fans have pretty much just accepted those origin stories as science fiction, but Stanford University biologist Sebastian Alvarado says there are for-real scientific explanations for how the two heroes got their powers.

In a report on Stanford’s news website, Alvarado says Cap’s origin can be explained with epigenetics, the process by which scientists can essentially flip a genetic switch that turns on or turns off specific traits:

We have a lot of genome-editing tools – like zinc finger nucleases, or CRISPR/Cas9 systems – that could theoretically allow you to epigenetically seek out and turn on genes that make your muscles physically large, make you strategically minded, incredibly fast, or increase your stamina.

Apparently pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that could, when paired with certain types of radiation or light waves, activate specific genes. If they ever get to market — and so far they’ve only been tested on mice — anybody with enough cash could conceivably be Captain America. (Presumably some super-mice are out there punching mouse Nazis right now.)

The likelihood of a real-life Hulk is a little bit more far-fetched, but Alvarado says what gamma radiation really does to the body could create a Hulk-like creature — you know, if it didn’t instantly kill you. When DNA regenerates after coming into contact with gamma radiation, the body’s repair functions can more or less rewrite the body’s genetic code. It could combine mass increase with hormones and create a Hulk.

Alvarado even has an explanation for why The Hulk is green.

Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk would be incredibly traumatic to his body, and maybe his green skin is the result of a whole-body bruise. If you want to get really creative, maybe his blood is full of some sort of green Hulk-oglobin, which can carry more oxygen to the muscles than hemoglobin and gives him his strength and stamina.

In other words, he’s bruised Banner.

It’s all interesting stuff, but as excited as we are about Captain Mousemerica, we’d prefer our Hulks to stay in the comics, thanks.

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