This is basically in response to a thread i've been reading in the Wolverine forums regarding his healing powers and how they actually work. I thought it'd be fun to actually reseach his healing factor and see if it would actually work with real world science... sort of bringing science back into comics :D
First off, I’d like to say a few things about Wolverine. This Marvel superhero is a well thought out character, with great powers and a great look. He’s savage, he’s mysterious, and is rough around the edges; he’s a loose cannon. Maybe that’s why everyone likes him so much. I however, feel seriously fed up with Wolverine. He’s become so popular that he makes appearances in almost every Marvel video game, television show, or toy line up. It’s kind of pissing me off now.
His mutant power; called his “healing factor,” allows him to rapidly counteract toxins, disease, and irritants. His body heals quickly from physical injury, and he is seldom afflicted by poisons. What a power to have! But what would have to happen on the cellular level for such healing abilities to occur?
Let us start with the physical injuries. Wolverine battles it out with Deadpool in an abandoned factory. As they exchange blows, Deadpool initiates a cunning attack forcing Wolverine to expose his chest. Deadpool seizes the opportunity to lunge his dagger between Wolverine’s ribcage. After withdrawing the dagger Deadpool ducks away in the shadows, assuming his enemy is incapacitated. Now this is where the healing factor kicks in. Within minutes, the wound is nowhere to be seen. It’s as though Wolverine was never stabbed in the first place. For this to occur, all of the surrounding cells would have to multiply at an alarming rate. Any organs, skin, or tissue severed would go into a state of hyper-mitosis.
There would need to be a trigger in the body telling the cells to quickly make up for any loss of structure. It’s not like his cells are normally in a state of hyper-mitosis, or he would age way too rapidly. Aging is generally a process that takes place after many generations of mitosis. Wolverine would look 50 when he’s 15 if his cells were always in such a state. So these cells divide at extreme speeds when needed. Cell bodies travel through the cytoplasm at incredible rates, and DNA is read and copied without error at similar speeds. After all is said and done, Wolverine shows no sign of scarring, meaning that he heals differently than normal humans do. Scarring is a result of tissue overlap as the wound heals. Wolverine must have an internal mechanism that coordinates all cell structures to lay identical to the original layout of his body.
Let us move on to his immune system. Wolverine walks into a room, and sees a glass of wine on the table. A letter beside the glass says “drink me.” As Wolverine lifts the glass from the table, he inadvertently springs a trap that releases a vapour containing viral and bacterial organisms into the room. The organisms are lethal to humans in few numbers. Furthermore, the wine glass contained a poison strong enough to kill Sasquatch. After a few minutes of torturous pain coming from his lungs and stomach, Wolverine slashes the door with his claws; freeing him of the death trap. Another minute is all he needs for the pain to subside. His body has completely fought off both the poison and the infectious disease. How did he do this?
Poisons are varied from those that simply eat away at bio-matter, to those that shut down integral cellular functions; forcing the cell to become incapacitated. Toxins are similar in its destruction. It is possible to explain the healing process with the hyper-mitosis theory, where the cells just keep dividing until the entire toxin or poison is used up. Once there is no more poison or antigen, the body can return to its normal state. But what will become of the viruses or bacteria? Such organisms multiply endlessly until expunged by the immune system.
A normal humans immune system takes anywhere from 5 days to weeks when responding to foreign bodies. By the time the immune system recognizes the foreign body and makes the proper antibodies, the person can be in serious trouble. Wolverine’s immune system would not only need to recognize foreign bodies really quickly, but it would need to replicate the proper amount of antibodies almost instantaneously. Such antibodies would also need to circulate through the body at an incredible rate. So does Wolverine have some kind of speed-up mechanism throughout his body? Does the Flash from DC comics have the same ability?
Lastly, his aging. Aging is often due to errors in DNA replication, causing wrinkles, liver spots, disease, and lack of pigment. But it is almost as if there is an internal countdown in our cells. DNA has a tail end with many added proteins (aka Guanine, Tyrosine, Adenine, Cytosine) that do absolutely nothing; however each time a cell replicates, one of those proteins is lost. This means that eventually (after so much replication) the cells will stop cutting out useless proteins that don't code for anything, and will begin to cut out useful proteins that are important to our genetic makeup.
Remember what I said about Logan's aging? I mentioned that he would look 50 when he was 15, because his cells divide much more rapidly than that of a normal human's cells. But in order for Wolverine's age to be slowed to a crawl (because I think he does still age, if only at a fraction of the rate of everyone else. Mainly because if he didn’t age at some level, then he would still be at the age he was when his healing factor first kicked in), he must have some kind of internal mechanism that either replenishes those proteins at the tail of the DNA strand, or he has way more unused proteins than the average man.
Well, this blog was mostly dedicated to trying to make Wolvey’s powers of healing plausible, rather than seeing if it could actually be possible in the real world. Though the perspective was off, it still pretty much proves that a “healing factor” is not currently explainable with real world science. Sorry Logan.