||THE SCIENCE MOMENT
Kelly Parks and
RABID aka RAGE - 1977
USA Release: April 8, 1977
The Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC) / Cinema Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. / Famous Players Film Company / The Dilbar Syndicate
Rated: Australia, USA: R / Finland: K-18 / Ireland, Norway, UK: 18 / Sweden:15
There's a Gahan Wilson cartoon that shows the gated entrance to the lair of
a mad scientist. Next to the gate is a big sign that says, Trespassers will be experimented upon!
The good doctors of the Keloid clinic must have gone to the mad scientist medical school if they think it's legal to perform experimental surgery on unfortunate accident victims,
even if they are using stem cells.
Yes, stem cells!
Well, they didn't call them stem cells but that is what they were describing when they took a piece of skin from Marilyn Chambers' leg and sent it away
to a lab to be grown into more skin and any other body parts she might need.*
Now exactly what went wrong when they did that, I couldn't comment on because the movie never explains. I get the impression the intention was
these magic cells knew she needed blood so it grew her a blood stealing needle thingie (pardon the technical jargon) in her armpit. But why that causes rabies
is never explained.
*Nope. That's not how lab grown skin works. In the 1970s, medical science wasn't looking at finding stem cells and teasing them into skin cells. Researchers were looking at making a patch of skin somehow stay alive long enough to grow literally acres of skin, by regenerating itself in the lab, as if it was still attached to the person. This became a viable reality in the early 1980s, though it wasn't approved by the FDA until much later.
Your skin is a very complex organ: one of your body's most complex organs. Human flesh grown in the lab is a two-fold process.
First technicians use the patient's own healthy skin to grow fibroblasts over an artificial structure that works as a scaffold. Fibroblasts migrate from the healthy skin cells to create new skin cells in the same way they work every single day to repair damage to your skin, both large and minute. When the doctor stitches you up, you rely on your body secreting fibroblasts to create new skin that fills in the wound. Severely burnt or damaged skin cannot create fibroblasts to repair an injury.
Wait. Wait. Wait. Fibro Blasts?**
|**Fibroblasts is/are a type of cell secretion from the organ, in this case your skin (Type I collagen), that is made up of Collagen and the extracellular matrix of the surrounding tissue. All of your organs secret their own unique fibroblasts in healing and it's the surrounding extracellular matrix that determines whether the new cells will be - for example - skin or liver cells. In broad strokes (because I'm not about to give you a full semester of this and you're probably not that damn interested.) the extracellular matrix "senses" what needs to be done, using the interstitial matrix and the basement membrane of the surrounding tissue, to create more skin.
Second, as the fibroblasts grow over the artificial scaffolding (created by a combination of sugars and specific bovine collagen^), they reject the artificial scaffold and break it down while replacing it with their own scaffold.
Growing skin in the lab doesn't use stem cell technology, in the medical sense of isolating undifferentiated stem cells and "teasing" them into skin, it simply regenerates itself.
^The artificial scaffold used in this process is called Integra®.
Today in the new millennium we would be talking about the latest experimental techniques using stem cells as a potentially better way to regrow skin. But that's not the way tens of thousands of plastic surgeons have been doing it for the last 45 plus years. And that certainly covers the 1970s when RABID was made.
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This review copyright 2007 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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