Editor’s note: Zombie watch is a feature I haven’t written for a long time, but it takes a light-hearted look at news around the world and explores the idea that these things might be related to a coming zombie apocalypse. The news is real, the commentary is satire. Hope you enjoy.
Recently a biotech company was granted permission to use stem cells to try and reactivate dead brain cells. The stated purpose is to use stem cells, along with coma medication, to attempt to restart synapse function in the brains of people who have been officially declared brain dead, but whose bodies are being kept alive by machines. The company, Bioquark, is calling it the ReAnima project, and will be done in India. No kidding, none of the above is from the plot for a new zombie movie or book, but it ought to be.
Is this science going too far? Will this be what finally brings about one of the most nightmarish events in popular fiction? We just don’t know what happens to a person when their brain dies, and that’s the biggest concern for anyone preparing for the big ZA, in my opinion. Once the brain dies what happens to our selves? Does our personality stay in stasis, our humanity? Does that pass on with the rest of the energy that makes our brain work, or does it just cease to exist? If you reanimate a dead brain will it come back with the full knowledge of what it is to be human? Will it even be us? Or will it be a monster with no soul, no humanity, or ability to reason?
What happens if it’s the latter? That’s the real question we should be asking. How would a mindless creature react to a world like ours? What is a zombie anyway? A ‘dead’ cannibal without any moral compunctions or human traits. Cannibalism has not been acceptable in society for a long time, but primitive tribes are rumored to still practice it today, so it’s not entirely out of the ordinary for reasoning human beings to eat each other. What’s to stop a mindless, reanimated being from doing the same? If these people are brought back and, lacking any of what makes us human, are simply animals running on base instincts what’s to stop them from being cannibals as well? Hungry, unable to communicate, surrounded by food that just stands there gawking, they might just do exactly what their fictional counterparts do. Maybe nothing will happen, but it never hurts to be prepared.
Our second story comes out of Brazil where scientists are using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the zika virus. As if playing Gods with dead brains isn’t enough we’re messing with the genes of tiny creatures that can puncture the skin of people and possibly transmit whatever they’re carrying around on their little snouts. The science sounds great. These modified males are sterile, but still mate with the native females, causing infertile eggs to be laid. Reduction in births is expected to cut the population of zika carrying native mosquitoes by 80%. This could greatly reduce the population, and possibly even eliminate it, and it’s even going through FDA approval to be used in the states.
The problem? Gene manipulation is tricky stuff, as is messing with native populations of wildlife. The linked article covers some of the times we’ve gone and screwed up when messing with nature, but certainly not all of them. I’m all for getting rid of a horrible virus, but what if something worse crops up because of it? What if some mutation on the virus passes to another insect or animal species? What if the mosquitoes who we kill off were holding back something worse? We have some successes when playing with nature, blight resistant potato for example, but when we screw up we tend to do it big time (DDT). What if this is the last straw that breaks nature’s back and she retaliates with the plague to end all plagues by taking a page from John Romero.
So be wary, and be watchful friends. A Zombie Apocalypse may not be likely, but it’s not impossible.