December 5th, 2038 SciNews Collective
Brian Wei Editor: Hannah Chaudhry
Ten years ago, Eric Kapinski was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer. His prognosis was not good. Within a year, he would have died.
At the time, a research team under Doctor Jody Park at the University of Toronto was on the cusp of a major breakthrough in cancer research. Doctor Park’s team had developed a virus that could sniff out, infect and destroy cancer cells.
Eric’s niece, Mia Turner, was a medical student at the University of Toronto, and she was familiar with Doctor Park’s research. Mia arranged for her uncle to enrol in Doctor Park’s research trials. Park’s research team took a sample of Eric’s cancer cells and treated them with the virus.
The virus failed to kill the cancer cells.
The problem was that the virus was designed to target a specific subset of cancer cells. Doctor Park explained in an interview, “Each and every cancer case follows a unique pathophysiology, and this is why it’s been so hard to fight it. There isn’t an obvious and unique biological marker common to all cancer cells that allows us to target the cells with a drug. Some cancer cells result from the inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. Others result from the proliferation of oncogenes [growth-promoting genes]. Many times, it’s a combination of both. The trouble with cancer research is finding a way to enter the cellular machinery and reading the genetic material found within to identify cancer-causing genetic defects.”
Yet Doctor Park’s team had done exactly that – they had repurposed a bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) to enter human cells and ‘scan’ for genetic defects that could result in uncontrolled cell proliferation.
“It is by no means a perfect technology,” Doctor Park explained. “We were able to encode within the bacteriophage the ability to identify faulty receptor tyrosine kinase genes [genes responsible for regulating cell proliferation], as well as a few other defective genes commonly found in cancer cells. Unfortunately for Mr. Kapinski, his cancer cells did not carry these mutations. We will have to develop an entirely new strain of CBV-bacteriophage to combat his cancer. This is a process that will require several years of computer modelling to produce a viable virus that could do what we want it to do. I am sad to say that it is unlikely that Mr. Kapinski will live to see the fruits of our labour.”
But Mia Turner wasn’t giving up on her uncle without a fight. She was also familiar with the work of Doctor Joel Rabe whose research into cryonics at McGill University has resulted in one of the most revolutionary medical breakthroughs in the twenty first century: the ability to cryonically preserve donor organs for transplantation.
“Cryonic research is still in its infancy,” Doctor Rabe said in a 2029 interview with GNN news. “Sure, we can cryonically preserve individual organs, but an entire human body? It’s never been tried before. Too much could-would go wrong. When [Mia] approached me about it, I said ‘no!’”
But Mia had been persistent, and she eventually convinced Doctor Rabe to agree. With her uncle’s consent, and special permission granted from Health Canada, and after a thorough review from McGill University’s Ethics Board, Doctor Rabe brought Eric Kapinski to a basement lab at McGill University and placed the sixty year old cancer patient into cryonic stasis.
Ten years later, Doctor Jody Park’s cancer research team made a major breakthrough. She and her colleagues now had in their possession a vast arsenal of cancer-busting CBV-bacteriophages.
Mia Turner, now 35 years old and a medical researcher in her own right, gathered with Doctor Rabe and Doctor Park inside Doctor Rabe’s basement lab where Mia’s uncle had remained frozen in deep sleep for over ten years. The trio revived Mia’s uncle. Miraculously and against Doctor Rabe’s greatest fear, Eric Kapinski survived the revival process – the first human ever to be revived after being frozen to sub-zero temperatures.
But not without complications.
Eric Kapinski woke up blind and suffered from amnesia and acute kidney failure. The medical team quickly transported him to the ER where they stabilized him.
“The anti-freeze serum that we used worked as it should,” Doctor Rabe explained in today’s GNN interview, “but the problem was that it couldn’t reach all the nooks and crannies in Kapinski’s body, particularly the eyes, the brain, and the kidneys. As a result, ice crystals formed in the tiny blood vessels in these organs, causing a lot of damage. Nowadays, we have the means to replace retinas and kidneys, and we can restore damaged brain tissue, but we cannot restore the memories he has lost.”
“On a positive note,” Doctor Park said in the same interview, “the CBV-bacteriophage is working. His tumours are shrinking, and soon he will be cancer-free.”
For Mia, it was a bitter sweet moment. “After ten years of hope, prayer, and rigorous medical research, I finally have my uncle back. He’s alive, despite all odds, and he’ll live a long, healthy life. On the other hand, he doesn’t remember me anymore. He doesn’t recognize his own family.”
Kapinski’s wife, children, and Mia hope that one day Eric will remember who he was - one photo album at a time.
“One day, we will have him back,” Mrs Kapinski said. “The brain can be damaged, but the soul is eternal. He is still in there. We will bring him back to us, God willing.”
Although Kapinski’s miraculous revival after ten years of cryonic sleep was widely hailed by the medical community as a major breakthrough, Doctor Rabe wasn’t celebrating. “The man’s body survived, but his memories, the very thing that makes us who we are, died in that freezer. His sacrifice won’t be in vain. We now know a lot more about the effects of cryonics on the human body. I will use this new data to further refine the process. Never again will a man or woman wake up from cryonic sleep with their memories wiped. Never. Again.”
Doctor Mia Turner gave her final statement in the interview:
“We now have the means to defeat cancer. Soon, Doctor Rabe will develop the means to cryonically preserve an entire human body without the ill effects that my uncle suffered. The future is bright, and I’m glad my uncle will live to see it.”
The above is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons, places or events are entirely coincidental.
This article is a fictional news post where I provide the backstory to my novel, Red Eden: Homeworld Bound. If the backstory intrigues you, please support me by clicking here and purchasing my novel on Amazon.com. You can also download it for free using this universal link:
Thanks for reading. Cheers!
Michael E. Vigil