It's a shame we don't have actual superheros in our midst. Otherwise, scientists would put out research papers that look something like this amazing six-page study examining the discovery of a novel protein associated with the regenerative abilities of none other than Wolverine.
Right off I gotta say that the work put into this parody study is commendable. It's got everything you'd expect from a research paper, including an abstract, a description of materials and methods, diagrams, you name it. The level of detail is equally impressive, including a reference to co-author Charles Xavier, who appears to be working out of the Department of Superhuman Biology at Xavier University.
I also like what BoingBoing's Maggie Koerth-Baker has to say:
I would also question why very-real biochemists Sigrid Alvarez, Emma Conway, and Leonard Foster would choose to work with Scott Summers, of all people, rather than Henry P. McCoy, who, I would assume, has a much longer and more impressive CV.
The point of the study was to look at Wolverine's remarkable superhealing abilities, known as Healing Factor, which allows him to recover from wounds, diseases, or toxins at a rate much faster than regular humans. In fact, this Healing Factor is what enabled the bonding of adamantium, an indestructible metal alloy, to Wolverine's skeleton during the Weapon X program.
Now, according to the study, the unique regenerative capabilities of the axolotl, an amphibian, may provide a clue. The "researchers" write:
We identified a novel protein, dubbed Howlett, that is nearly identical to the Amblox protein in axolotl which is known to be responsible for the amphibian’s limb regeneration. siRNA knockdown of the howlett and amblox genes demonstrated decreased replication in Wolverine and axolotl, respectively, and Howlett was found in all Wolverine tissues. Using massspectrometry and x-ray crystallography, we identified an S2 pocketin the Howlett protein that we postulate contributes to the 5.66-fold increased specific activity observed over Amblox in cleaving a large substrate analogue. Our findings show that Howlett is a major contributor to Wolverine’s incredible regeneration capacity, and further investigation of the signaling and regulatory mechanisms associated with this novel protein could provide outstanding advances in the field of regenerative medicine.
The study now appears in the Journal of Superhero Mutational Science. Or not.