Using Synthetic Bio To Create A Zombie Virus
How to Engineer a Zombie Virus
Dec 18, 2010
Much to my surprise, I’ve become a bit of a zombie junkie.
I’m a big fan of the Walking Dead television show and zombie films in general (I could watch Shaun of the Dead endlessly). I’ve been intrigued and spooked by the genre’s post-apocalypic visions of a humanity overrun by a mysterious virus that brings the dead back to life—only to stalk the living.
While it doesn’t necessarily speak to the kind of speculative fiction that I normally enjoy, it does offer some food for thought as far a the science is concerned. And it got me thinking: Could such a thing ever happen? Moreover, given the potential power of future technologies, could a ‘zombie virus’ be deliberately engineered? The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that such a thing might actually be possible.
According to zombie canon, it’s a virus called Solanum that is responsible for converting the living to the undead. According to the Zombie Survival Guide, the virus works by traveling through the bloodstream from the original point of entry to the brain where it uses the cells of the frontal lobe for replication, destroying them in the process. During this period, all bodily functions cease and the infected subject is eventually pronounced “dead.” The brain remains alive but dormant while the virus mutates its cells into a completely new organ.
Once the mutation is complete, this new organ reanimates the body—but typically to a form that bears little resemblance to the original corpse. Some bodily functions remain constant, others operate in a modified capacity, and the remainder shut down completely.
The result of the transformation is a zombie, a member of the living dead.