Super Genius DNA

Chapter 246: Brain Death (11)



Chapter 246: Brain Death (11)

Six days after stem cells were injected into the subventricular zone, Kim Hyun-Taek saw the aurora borealis.

‘I wanted to travel and see them when I retired.’

Some people believed that as the scientific clarity of something grew, the literary meaning of it faded. For example, the fact that the heart was just a mechanical tissue that beat steadily according to signals from the brain and excitement in the nodules removed the heart’s many literary qualities: love, passion, and other emotions that were believed to be contained in the heart.

But some things remained mysterious and touching even when all the mechanisms were scientifically clear. A photoelectric phenomenon that occurred when plasma particles ejected to Earth by the solar wind collided with the magnetic field in the upper layers of the atmosphere to produce light. Even Kim Hyun-Taek, who knew exactly what the aurora borealis was, was touched when he saw it.

As he watched it, he heard a familiar voice around him. The voice, which was growing clearer and clearer, belonged to his greatest nemesis in life.

“Can you hear me, Mr. Kim Hyun-Taek?” Young-Joon asked. “Please open your eyes if you can hear me. Your basal ganglia and part of your cerebellum has been recovered. The neurons that were originally dormant there have begun to become active.”

Kim Hyun-Taek understood most of what Young-Joon was saying.

“We revived your brain stem, including your medulla oblongata. The area closest to it, controlled by the closely connected basal ganglia and cerebellar nerves, is the eye. You have regained control of the levator palpebrae superioris, and the superior, inferior, and medial rectus,” Young-Joon said. “Open your eyes.”

The revived neurons in the deep cerebellar nuclei were excited, sending the electrical signals to the back of the eyelids. The levator palpebrae superioris contracted, pulling the eyelid open. It was like rescuing a man who was trapped deep inside a lightless well.

Kim Hyun-Taek opened his eyes. Instead of the aurora borealis, he was looking at the fluorescent lights of a hospital room.

“You won’t be able to move anything other than your eyes yet,” Young-Joon said. “Do you want to see who else is here? If you want to say hello, give me one long blink.”

Kim Hyun-Taek closed his eyes slowly.

‘What happened? How much time has passed?’

From the change in Young-Joon’s clothes, it was clear that quite a bit of time had passed. Kim Hyun-Taek didn’t feel anything while he was unconscious, but he could somehow feel the passage of time.

‘Is my wife still with me?’

Kim Hyun-Taek was afraid to open his eyes.

‘Now that I think of it, once I close my eyes, I have no choice but to open them again. He’s making me do that and taking it for a yes.’

Kim Hyun-Taek slowly opened his eyes, feeling a sense of dread.

Young-Joon grinned and raised the backrest of the hospital bed so he could see better. There were a lot of doctors he didn’t recognize. There was also Carpentier, a Nobel Prize recipient, Song Ji-Hyun, and the members of the Life Creation Team.

And next to them was his wife, her face a mess from all she had been through. She couldn’t properly look him in the face. All she could do was wipe her face with her hands, tears pouring down her face like an open faucet.

“...”

Kim Hyun-Taek wanted to say something, but it was impossible because he couldn’t move anything other than his eyes.

“Recovery will continue slowly. Eventually, you will be able to move your body, though you’ll need to do rehabilitation therapy for a long time,” Young-Joon said.

*

Reporters had already crowded the hospital, and they were being controlled by security.

“Please wait here. Doctor Ryu and the medical team will come down in a moment, and you can interview them then.”

Among those sequestered in the waiting area for reporters, there were also reporters from academic journals.

Jessie, the editor of Science, and Anthony, the editor of Nature, greeted each other nervously. There was tension in the air.

“It’s been a while,” Jessie said.

“It seems like I always run into you when we cover Doctor Ryu, Jessie.”

Science and Nature were international journals that represented the United States and Britain. They’ve been competing for a long time, so editors and reporters often bumped into each other on the field and became friends. Jessie and Anthony had a similar relationship.

“But I don’t think you had to come, because this paper will eventually be published in Science,” Jessie said playfully.

“You never know,” Anthony replied.

“Well, when Doctor Ryu first developed stem cells and got into regenerative medicine, Science was the first to report it, right? This is the culmination of all that work, so isn’t it only fitting for it to be reported in Science?” Jessie said.

“Haha, I don’t know about that. Doctor Ryu didn’t do this project alone. It was a huge collaborative experiment with the Next Generation Hospital and Cellijenner. There are a bunch of corresponding authors, so I don’t think Doctor Ryu can just send it to Science on his own.”

“But would anyone refuse if Doctor Ryu says he wants to send it to Science?”

“Probably not, but Doctor Ryu and I are comrades who stayed in Xinjiang Uyghur together and risked our lives to research and report. I don’t know if Doctor Ryu will still trust the journalism of the people who went back home with their tails between their legs because they were scared of China...”

Anthony shrugged.

“Wait, what? Excuse me?”

Jessie’s eyes widened, bewildered.

As the two of them were bickering in a friendly manner, someone suddenly intervened from the side. It was a tall, lanky man with a stern face.

“I expected Science and Nature to be here.”

“Clarence?”

Jessie and Anthony were both surprised. Clarence was the editor for Cell.

Nature and Science were primarily about biology, but that wasn’t all they covered: about twenty percent of the papers were about physics, chemistry, or astronomy. But Cell, like the name suggested, was one hundred percent focused on biology. Its recognition and expertise sometimes surpassed that of Nature or Science.

“We’re not a popular science journal, we’re a biology specialty journal. Science has had a monopoly on Doctor Ryu for a long time, but I think that’s because Doctor Ryu wanted to choose a popular journal to popularize science. Now that the brain-dead are coming back from the dead, he’s going to have to choose a journal that has the expertise to match that.”

“Can CNS (Cell, Nature, Science) say anything about expertise?”

A skinny woman behind Clarence interjected.

The air was getting more tense.

“I know science magazines that are only fifth or sixth in IF (impact factor) have an eye on this, but this is clinical data. You need to leave this to the real experts.”

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Anthony asked.

“I’m Amanda, the editor for the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).”

NEJM was the best journal of clinical medicine in terms of the average citation index of its articles. It was highly cited because doctors usually read it.

Jessie scratched her head. These journals had tried to get Young-Joon to publish with them several times before, but Science had always been the one to publish his articles. But she missed out once when that lunatic Anthony pretended he was a war correspondent in Xinjiang Uyghur.

But now, the clinical paper was being targeted by other journals that were not as nervous about the reputation of Science or Nature.

‘I guess it’s tempting.’

The impact factor (IF) of a journal was the average of the number of citations of the articles in the journal. It was the number of times a journal’s articles were cited by other papers divided by the number of articles in the journal.

Science has been slowly building up their IF by publishing papers since Darwin’s time. Young-Joon’s paper was just one paper, but it could boost Science’s IF the moment it was published. It was similar to how including Bill Gates could increase the GDP of the United States.

That was how shocking this clinical experiment was. If other papers were fish, this paper was a whale.

“Oh? Is this where the journals are gathering?”

A nerdy man joined them. They could tell that he was a real scientist from his tacky plaid shirt and glasses.

“Haha, nice to meet you. I’m Yevhenikov, the editor of Neuron.”

Neuron was arguably the top journal in neuroscience.

“Phew...”

Anthony turned away and sighed.

“Here come the main characters,” Clarence said.

A group of people came down the escalator to the lobby of the hospital, including Song Ji-Hyun, Young-Joon, Carpentier, the Life Creation Team, and the medical team. Reporters and journal editors excitedly whipped out their cameras and tablets and began moving.

However, Young-Joon declined their interview.

“You should interview the first author.”

Young-Joon gently pushed Song Ji-Hyun, the members of the Life Creation Team, and the two professors forward and walked away.

*

As the paper was not yet complete, the academic journals wrote a calm article that was focused on the treatment. The media, however, ran with sensationalized headlines.

[First brain-dead man medically revived.]

[A-GenBio now revives the dead.]

[National Assembly to consider bill to remove brain death from death criteria.]

[Scientist challenges God’s authority: Is this progress or disaster?]

“This cannot happen!”

Several religious groups rallied, even holding marches on the street.

“Medically, legally, and philosophically, brain death is death. What Doctor Ryu is doing now is disturbing the order of nature by bringing the dead back to life. This arrogance of man trying to govern life and challenging the authority of God is what will bring judgment.”

“This technology must not be allowed!” shouted religious groups.

Some religious groups and bioethicists actually liked this situation.

—This is also God’s will. To me, Doctor Ryu is one of God’s blessed warriors and apostles. Diseases are caused by evil demons, and Doctor Ryu is the one who is fighting against them. May God’s glory and love be upon him...

—In the Middle Ages, human dignity was sought in God, and in pre-modern times, it was sought in reason. Modern times pointed to the brain as the source of reason, and modern medicine wanted to challenge the complexity and vitality of the brain while giving it a mystical meaning. What Doctor Ryu did shows us that humanity can fully understand the brain. Humanity is no longer dependent on mystical and obscure forces. We need a new standard of human dignity...

Whoosh.

Carpentier deleted the tab on his phone and turned off the news.

“Things are so chaotic right now,” Carpentier said.

“I expected it, but it’s still surprising,” Young-Joon said.

“It’s a good thing that you left without doing an interview, because if you did, you might not have made it home,” Carpentier said.

“Haha, thank you for taking the interview requests for me.”

Carpentier grinned and held out a book.

[La Scaphandre et le Papillon]

The title was French.

“What is this?”

“It’s a book written by a man named Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was an editor of a French magazine. In Korean, it would translate to something like the Diving-Bell and the Butterfly.”

“The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly?”

“This person had locked-in syndrome, like my late fiancée.”

“...”

“Patients who have locked-in syndrome can move their eyes and have full consciousness. But that’s it. Bauby communicated by blinking his eyes and picking out letters of the alphabet one by one. He wrote a whole book like that, and this is it.”

“Wow...”

“He’s saying that he feels like a butterfly stuck in a diving bell. It’s a heartbreaking title.” UppTodat𝒆d fr𝒐m nô/v/e/lb(i)n.c(o)/m

Carpentier let out a deep sigh.

“Doctor Ryu, we managed to bring Kim Hyun-Taek into locked-in syndrome. It’s a miraculous feat, and everyone seems to be celebrating our success. But Doctor Ryu... You know that I came to A-Bio to conquer locked-in syndrome, right?”

“...”

Young-Joon picked up the book that Carpentier gave him.

“Can I keep this?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you.”

Young-Joon stood up and put the book on his shelf.

“About how I came back without doing an interview...” Young-Joon said. “It was because this project isn’t over. In our preclinical experiment, the beagle regained its motor skills, right? That’s what we need to aim for.”

“Right? You’re going to continue, right?” Carpentier said.

“Of course. I am going to make Kim Hyun-Taek check out of the hospital and get in a police car on his own two feet.”


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