We all know how it starts-you first hear of some groundbreaking medical discovery that everyone thinks is cool, then, a few days later, something goes horribly wrong. The samples start mutating, the experiments start behaving in weird and unexpected ways. Then there’s blood and death everywhere, and it spreads. Panic ensues. The news goes crazy. The scientists in the lab go first, then the country, then, the world. You wake up one day and the zombie apocalypse has arrived.
Can the following scientific discoveries bring that dreaded alternate future to reality?
Hollywood-ized versions aside, zombies are basically infested bodies that have deviated from their purpose and are no longer fully in control of their motor functions. Practically hollow shells without any cognitive ability, they bend to the will of the infesting virus that directs their every move.
Bees flying around in circles with no particular direction might seem funny in cartoons, but the ghastly truth behind this kind of behavior is the parasitic Apocephalus borealis fly. Responsible for a lot of colony collapse disorders, the quiet bee killer infects its host by laying its eggs inside a bee’s abdomen, effectively controlling the bee. The zombie bee, having lost control of its own body, flies away going nowhere until it plummets to its death. Then, in true nauseating fashion, about more than 10 of the parasitic fly’s larvae burst out of the poor bee’s corpse. Blood and gore included.
That terrible fate is just like what ants suffer through once infected with the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.
The parasitic fungus latches on to ants and controls them however way they want to-and they have been doing so for over 40 million years. It causes the infested ants to fall, wander from their colony, and basically go haywire until they one day stagger to their deaths. In the last moments of its nonexistent life, the zombie ant locks itself on the underside of a leaf with no energy left to let go on its own. The fungus keeps it there until the ant finally succumbs to death’s sweet release. Once dead, the ant isn’t off the hook yet. Its gruesome fate continues because a tube then sprouts from its head along with a new breed of the fungus’ spores, ready and hungry to be released and infect unsuspecting ants once more.
Scientists are unsure exactly how the fungus manipulates the behavior of the infested ant, but they believe the parasite spreads chemicals that eat the insect from the inside. When you think about it, that’s actually worse than having your brains consumed when you’re dead, don’t you think?
Perhaps the most disturbing of all three discoveries is this: that a group of biological researchers have now generated-and this is not a movie-dead zombie cells. These mammalian cells are basically much more superior to living cells in that they have enhanced functions, like surviving harsher temperatures, compared to their original live counterparts. This is due to the silicic acid armor that the zombie cells are coated with.
Bryan Kaehr, the leader in this chilling new experiment, states that “Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work.”
Now, if that’s not a premise to the bleak apocalypse of the living dead, we don’t know what is.
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