How Does CAPTAIN AMERICA’s Super-Soldier Serum Work? (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)


There isn’t a whole lot chemicals can do
for you if you decide to jump on a grenade to save your army buddies. But what modern
chemistry and genetics might be able to do, at least some day, is turn you from skinny
private into Captain America. First off, let’s not call what Steve Rogers
was injected with a “serum,” that’s usually some milky yellow mixture that can
be isolated from blood that’s not plasma, although calling it a super serum does sound cool—wait this kinda looks like pee, can we change that? Next, we need to know what Super-Soldier juice—that
doesn’t sound right at all—Super-Soldier FORMULA actually does. In the Marvel universe, the first Super-Soldier
formula was created as a part of Operation: Rebirth by scientist Abraham Erskine, and
was given intravenously to Steve Rogers. After administration, Rogers was placed in a vita-ray
chamber and was bombarded with radiation. He emerged not super-human, but at the absolute
peak of possible human performance. We don’t know what was exactly in this formula,
but we can speculate based on the effects it produces in Cap. Whatever it was, it would
have to mess with Cap’s genes. Dr. Sebastian Alvarado, who you might recognize
from my video on the Hulk’s hue, has a theory about this too and it’s based on the fact
that we actually know what genes in our DNA are associated with things like muscle growth
and how much oxygen our blood can carry. So, if we could inject him with a formula
that suppresses certain genes and hyper-activates other ones, we could induce something like
Cap’s amazing transformation. As Dr. Alvarado points out, one way to have
the Super-Soldier formula seek out and change a part of Captain’s DNA would be with the
technique, something like “CRISPR,” or “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic
repeats”. It’s a way to add or delete information from our genetic blueprint. The CRISPR technique is based on how bacteria
protect themselves from viruses. When viral DNA is detected, the bacteria sends out two
single strands of RNA and then using a protein called Cas9, locates a section of that DNA
with the same code. The RNA then locks on to that piece and cuts it there, disabling
it. Scientists then figured out that this same
process could be used to add or delete genetic information from any organism, including humans.
The CRISPR technique could cut DNA, deactivating some gene but it could also cut DNA and provide
another copy, a mutated copy of that gene to change the way that it’s expressed. Since we know what genes are associated with
things like muscle growth and athletic performance, using a technique like CRISPR could feasibly
beef up Steve Rogers. But the secret Super-Soldier program has no
time for lengthy clinical trials and incremental improvements. That’s where the so-called
“vita-rays” come in. Researchers are still tinkering with this
technique, but light-activated drug delivery systems are something that we’re looking
into. The idea is that first some nano-scale material would house some drug or medicine. Then when hit with a certain wavelength of
light, these materials would open up in some way and deliver their drugs inside to a patient
at a specific place in their body or at a specific time . If Steve Rogers was injected with some gene-editing
formula inside some light-activated nano-materials, then feasibly the Super-Soldier formula and
vita-chamber could work in tandem to create the perfect soldier. But that kind of work
is decades away. Why? Because Science. Hail Hydra. Want more science? Check out my last video on how Daredevil can fight crime without being able to see Subscribe to Nerdist for more videos. If you want Because Science two days earlier than anyone else subscribe to Vessel at vessel.com/nerdist. And as always if you have any comments or questions, hit me up in the comments section below. Thanks!