Life sciences in the Re-imagined Series
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The medical technologies in the Re-imagined Series aren't particularly advanced to that found currently on the real-world Earth. A few special advancements have appeared in the show, despite the character's relative medical similarities to our own, that change the nature of life science as we know it.
Radiation and the Colonists
After the Twelve Colonies are bombarded by nuclear bombs, all life on the Colonies are in mortal peril. In the case of the humans on Caprica, death is likely without aid.
This section is not intended to discuss all the facets of radiation exposure, but to note the likely fates or salvations of their civilization's science in specific episodes.
Survival on Caprica
After Sharon "Boomer" Valerii's departure from Caprica after she leaves with a handful of survivors, Karl "Helo" Agathon apparently separates from the surviving refugees, who soon succumb to radiation poisoning.
For the most part, there is no treatment for acute radiation poisoning. The effects of such poisoning cause a gradual systemic failure of the body as cells weaken and die. Given that the survivors had little to no provisions, the survivors would have likely died off.
Warding off radiation poisoning, Agathon survives as he has a supply of anti-radiation medication that he injects himself with periodically.
Anti-radiation medications do exist on the real-world Earth. One popular drug is potassium iodide, which blocks absorption of radiation by the thyroid gland, which aids in reducing the overall absorption of radioactivity into the human body. Provided that Agathon's drug blocked more than just radioactive iodides, and given that Agathon's initially was on the outskirts of the destroyed cities, his survival is plausible. No information is available on the type of anti-radiation medicine used, however.
Agathon, as well as the Caprica Resistance, use injectors for their medication.
Exposure from Stellar Phenomena
The Fleet is forced to travel through a stellar cloud of ionized, hot gases laden with radiation. Exposure to the radiation cannot be tolerated by anyone for more than a few hours. One character, Louanne "Kat" Katraine, eventually dies from this exposure (The Passage).
Stellar radiation contains large amounts of gamma radiation, which is the most ionizing and therefore the most destructive to human tissue. In the case of Katraine and the other pilots, the amount of exposure dictates the possible complications.
While Katraine does not survive, the humanoid Cylon Sharon "Athena" Agathon survives a massive exposure to the same radiation. While humanoid Cylons are radiation-hardened in most cases, Agathon, who bears a child with Karl Agathon, certainly has a curious biology that resists the radiation's effects, including mutation, while allowing its DNA to remain (mostly) compatible to breed with humans (The Farm).
The Cancer Cure of Laura Roslin
This section was originally written from a layman's perspective. As such, the information in this section is speculative and with little professional background. Battlestar Wikipedians with more experience and training in biology, medical science, and genetics are strongly encouraged to correct and expand on this section.
The episode "Epiphanies" showed dying President Laura Roslin receiving the fetal blood from the Agathon's unborn child, which dramatically annihilates the breast cancer and its subsequent metastasis (spreading) that almost kills Roslin.
The believability of this event is low given that viewers have seen, from the first moment we meet the character of Laura Roslin, that cancer in the Twelve Colonies is just as dire as it is on the real-world Earth.
Killing cancer cells is not inherently a problem in treatment. But killing cancer growths without damaging healthy tissue is the larger issue. As cancer spreads and grows, it infests itself in healthy tissue where surgery is made impossible (brain cancer is commonly inoperable because of the likelihood of damage to critical areas of the brain). Likewise, chemotherapy is less invasive, but can also leave nasty changes to body chemistry and highly undesirable side effects. Roslin mentions that her mother also had breast cancer that she had treated with Doloxan therapy, which appears to be a form of chemotherapy. Roslin declined this treatment in favor of Chamalla extract, a treatment that led to interesting side effects, but ultimately failed in slowing or stopping her cancer (as Dr. Cottle predicted).
The cancer cure seen in "Epiphanies" appeared to accomplish the following abilities:
- Destroyed all cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in the bloodstream (to prevent relapsing)
- Destroyed all cancer cells in organ tissue while repairing damage to organs with tumors or other infection
- Differentiated between the host's healthy cells and the cancerous cells
- Be effective with a relatively small dose, since fetal blood volume is low and cannot be taken in large amounts
- Left few or no immediate side-effects
There could be some logic to the use of the Cylon hybrid fetal blood, but this requires some stretching of the imagination and perhaps some genetic work.
- The blood contained Stem Cells as well as the Cylon equivalent, quite possibly along the lines of nanomachines within the cells themself, or replacing/ traveling along with the red and white blood cells. The combination of nanomachines programmed to repair and refresh with the assistance of the regenerative capabilities of stem cells could very feasibly lead to a complete healing of the body by seeking out and destroying cancerous cells and repairing damaged tissue.
- Earth science has confirmed that stem cells, undifferentiated cells found in fetal tissue that change into any needed organ or body part, can be used to aid in cellular repair.
- The use of fetal stem cells appears to support early research, but with a new twist. According to new research, fetal stem cells from the placentas of babies (born or not) leak into the body of a mother and appear to act as specialized "protectors" that can repair or lessen the effects of damaged tissues or disease. The presence of these cells can be for years, and is compounded by the number of pregnancies of the mother.
- Earth science has also confirmed that the human immune system mounts a response to cancer, which can lead to the regression of tumors. People with compromised immunity, such as those infected with HIV, suffer from malignancies that are uncommon in the general population. Some cancer researchers have speculated that improving the immune response could provide a cure for cancer possessing all of the above features.
- Earth science has found that several viruses are capable of rapidly infecting and killing cancerous cells while lacking the same infectivity of healthy cells. Experiments have been conducted in which mice which were deliberately given massive tumors were rapidly cured by direct infections of the tumors by viral agents that did not harm any healthy tissues. In terms of the show, perhaps the Cylon-hybrid cells are capable of mimicking these abilities.
- Despite their appearance, humanoid Cylons are not human, but created. Perhaps in their creation, Cylons designed the humanoid bodies to fight off or identify genetic malfunctions immediately, or may be created without any of the historic genetic abnormalities found in humans that could trigger cancer or other diseases.
RDM explained that he was afraid that viewers would react to a longer, more detailed explanation as technobabble, and edited the material out as a result. This doesn't mean that this material is incorrect; nothing Baltar says in the aired episode would be contradicted by further elaboration, as Baltar’s comments that the blood is an "amalgam", etc. are so vague that further information wouldn’t contradict it. Many fans speculated and hoped that these scenes would become available in the Season 2.5 DVD box set, however there are no deleted scenes from this episode on the DVD set.
However, several shots of Baltar going through notes on the genetic structure of the Hybrid's DNA, etc. can be seen in promo commercials for this episode. Although no screencaps exist for this, careful analysis has yielded several new insights.
This would seem to support the notion that the humanoid Cylons are indeed carbon-based, as opposed to silicon-based. However, just as the human body contains the metal calcium but is not calcium-based, the Cylons incorporate silicon (as noted in the vague reference to "silica pathways") into their physiology, but appear to be carbon-based.
In fact, since silicon does not share the organic nature that enables carbon to form the building blocks of life (silicon can't make as many molecular bonds as carbon), it would be practically impossible for most of a Cylon's body to be anything but a carbon-based life form. Else, the pregnancy between Karl Agathon and Sharon Agathon, neé Valerii would be physically impossible, even if "love" was needed to make it happen. Certain kinds of radiation have adverse effects on Cylon technology (as shown on Ragnar Anchorage), but this appears to be based on the tissue-level structure of silica pathways, not their underlying cellular basis.
- The fate of these refugees is noted briefly by Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell's character acting as narrator) in the special program, "Battlestar Galactica: The Story So Far."
- According to the podcast for this episode, this was, in fact, the agent of the cure. However, Ron D. Moore believed the explanation would be too much technobabble for audiences and had the explanation truncated.
- A great deal of technical insight into the humanoid Cylons, and more specifically, the Cylon-human hybrid fetus, was going to be revealed in "Epiphanies." However, according to Ron D. Moore's podcast for this episode, almost all of these were cut, to the point that in the final edit Baltar is left saying that the "blood" of the hybrid is "special". Many fans thought this explanation was a little too abrupt.