For the uninformed, you are looking at the Fate Universe’s version of Frankenstein’s Monster from Fate/Apocrypha and Fate Grand Order. Yes, Japan took this.
And turned it into this.
Personally, I think she looks better this way, and do realize this is the same Nasu who made King Arthur a girl. Not that I find anything wrong with this. Now for the rest of Fran’s story. It is actually surprisingly similar to Mary Shelly’s original work, except that instead of Victor being a mad scientist who made the creature to deal with his grief, it was a mage who made her to recreate Adam and Eve. As we can see, he started with Eve. While the anime version looks much better, the Victor of the original novel tried to do the same thing, only his creature did not turn out so well. The mentalities of both monsters are surprisingly similar and I feel like Frankenstein steals the show in Fate/Apocrypha. Lastly, both monsters are brought back to life using electricity, and anime Frankenstein’s signature attack, “Blasted tree,” comes from a line in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.
“But I am a blasted tree; the bolt has entered my soul; and I felt then that I should survive to exhibit, what I shall soon cease to be – a miserable spectacle of wrecked humanity, pitiable to others, and intolerable to myself.”
However, you didn’t come here for an analysis of the story, you came for the science and you might be wondering why I would be talking about Frankenstein, a monster made from dead body parts and then brought to life. Well, about that.
Yes, you read the title correctly, scientists brought pig brains back to life using electricity, and my first thought was Frankenstein, followed by Fran (anime Frankenstein).
Science of Frankenstein
Mary Shelly is not unsurprisingly vague in her description of how the monster is brought back to life beyond the use of chemicals and electricity. The anime version is considered to be the same as the novel except add in some magic, so I will be focusing on the original. The original novel was first published in 1815, when Mary Shelly was only 21 years old. It has been reported that Marry Shelly was inspired by a scientist named Luigi Galvani. Galvani made many advances in the science surrounding electricity, specifically medical or bioelectricity. That is the electricity that is found in biological organisms. He is the scientist behind the famous or infamous frog leg experiment, depending on your experience with it.
It basically works because our nerve and muscle cells operate through the use of small electrical impulses that are discussed more here.
It was a fascinating discovery and it was replicated in scientific and macabre ways, some of which Mary Shelly most likely knew about. Ever since the publication of the novel scientists and philosophers have been discussing the impossibility or eventuality of the novel. It seems now that we are another step closer to a real-life Frankenstein.
Pig Brain Experiment
The following is the abstract of the study published in Nature, Restoration of brain circulation and cellular functions hours post-mortem. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1099-1
“The brains of humans and other mammals are highly vulnerable to interruptions in blood flow and decreases in oxygen levels. Here we describe the restoration and maintenance of microcirculation and molecular and cellular functions of the intact pig brain under ex vivo normothermic conditions up to four hours post-mortem. We have developed an extracorporeal pulsatile-perfusion system and a haemoglobin-based, acellular, non-coagulative, echogenic, and cytoprotective perfusate that promotes recovery from anoxia, reduces reperfusion injury, prevents oedema, and metabolically supports the energy requirements of the brain. With this system, we observed preservation of cytoarchitecture; attenuation of cell death; and restoration of vascular dilatory and glial inflammatory responses, spontaneous synaptic activity, and active cerebral metabolism in the absence of global electrocorticographic activity. These findings demonstrate that under appropriate conditions the isolated, intact large mammalian brain possesses an underappreciated capacity for restoration of microcirculation and molecular and cellular activity after a prolonged post-mortem interval.”
If that read more like some ancient language, let me translate and explain. The scientists acquired 32 pig brains from animals that were killed at a meat processor. They then waited 4 hours before hooking the brains up to a machine that began circulating fake blood, along with other chemicals used to preserve tissue, through the dead brains. Six hours later they found the cells in the brains intact and metabolically active, compared to the control brains that were decomposing.
One thing to keep in mind, and one thing that the scientists stressed, is that while the cells were metabolically active and, in a sense, alive, the cells were not communicating with each other. There was no detectable electrical activity and no consciousness or other brain activity. The scientists were also adamant that if any brain activity had been detected the experiment would have been terminated. So, while activity was returned to some of the cells in the brain, it was not returned to life.
You might be wondering why this experiment was carried out. The short answer is that brains and brain activity are notoriously hard to study, even more so when looking at brain tissue. Until now brain cells were thought to die within minutes once blood flow to the cells was cut off, and scientists could only study tissue samples and not the cellular structure of an entire brain. This experiment could also allow scientists to study the entire brain and keep brain tissue alive much longer than previously thought.
While your first thought might go to bringing the dead back to life or creating life, something that some scientists do not dismiss out of hand, there are other more immediate implications, mainly the potential for new treatments for a variety of brain injuries and diseases including strokes. That does not mean we should discount the concerns this experiment brings up; we are still a long way off from any chance of bringing back the dead.
I still have to call Frankenstein busted, since we still can’t reanimate the dead, but modern science is much, much closer to a modern-day Frankenstein than I think Mary Shelly or many others could have ever imagined. It is also interesting that the experiment itself reads like something that you might find in a modern-day retelling of Frankenstein.
FYI- I do realize there is a larger ethical conversation to be had, but that’s moving beyond the scope of what I would like to cover here.