Paranormal Phenomenon Omnibus

Eugene Victor Tooms: Scientific Probability

Article by Matt Allair

Opening Speculation / Contortion Ability / Bile Feeder / The Possibility of Human Hibernation / Could He Exist?

One of the most unsettling notions in the field of science fiction narrative is the idea of those among us who hide murderous instincts. On one hand, the character Eugene Victor Tooms seems like a reasonable, quiet, relatively handsome and unassuming fellow. Yet there is the problem that he harbors a predatory instinct to kill for his survival, which is demonstrated in the season one episodes Squeeze and Tooms.

Many would comfortably assume he's a fantastic character and not possible in our world. Yet is the idea of a Mutant that can squeeze into narrow spaces, with a need to kill people and eat their livers as sustenance between hibernating for a thirty year cycle, as improbable as it really seems? Especially when you consider the kind of parasites and insect parasites that already exist in the natural world, or the kind of research that is already being done on the possibility of human hibernation for medical purposes, can one dismiss the scenario of such a person with such ease?

Opening Speculation / Contortion Ability / Bile Feeder / The Possibility of Human Hibernation / Could He Exist?

Let's examine what we know about the character and see if it's really so far fetched.

We know that he had an abnormal skeletal and muscle system that made him able to stretch and contort his limbs, yet the obvious question is whether that is at all possible. In addition, are there any mammals in nature that are able to do something similar?

The short answer is that there are no mammals that can stretch their limbs; the closest example would be an octopus. Muscles, ligaments and tendons can be made to stretch, but bones cannot do so. What can be surmised is that, more likely, Tooms was able to dislocate his joints so he could contort and stretch. There is another speculative possibility, that he had an anomalous bone characteristic that allowed him to break bones and they could rapidly heal. One could speculate that he may have a benign variant of Osteogenesis imperfecta, the low density bone disorder. Yet there are problems with such a theory.

For patients of Osteogenesis imperfecta, the joints are loose and could thereby be made to stretch. In Osteogenesis imperfecta Type III, the bones can actually be soft enough to bend. The broken bones Tooms would suffer, however, from all of his contortions and activity would hinder him. This genetic disease also leads to deformity of bones and in severe patients, a loss of flexibility in rotation of the forearms. As far as the question about Tooms having the ability to rapidly heal from broken bones, there are no examples in nature of creatures that have such a rapid ability to heal bone.

Opening Speculation / Contortion Ability / Bile Feeder / The Possibility of Human Hibernation / Could He Exist?

Then there is the question about Tooms need for eating human livers for sustenance to aid him during his hibernation process as well as secretion of bile. In order to understand the how's and whys, we first need to understand what a liver does. The liver is a large very vascular glandular organ of vertebrates that secretes bile and causes important changes in many of the substances contained in the blood (as by converting sugars into glycogen which it stores up until required and by forming urea). Bile is a yellow or greenish viscid alkaline fluid secreted by the liver that passes into the duodenum where it aids especially in the emulsification and absorption of fats. (As defined from Dr. Scully's website)

The liver stores vitamins A, D, K, and a lot of B12. Being that B12 aids in the manufacture of red blood cells. Another reason Tooms may have been so compelled to consume liver, one could speculate, is that Tooms might have suffered from anemia. The tell tale symptoms would have been that Tooms would bruise easily and would have healed slowly from cuts and scrapes, as well as having poor vision. Scully could have confirmed this if she had done an examination when he was alive or an autopsy after his demise.

How could bile be used to extend his century old life and youthful appearance? If it's used to slow down his metabolism during hibernation, wouldn't there be any alternatives in nature?

The answer is there is no direct evidence to support the idea that bile or liver enzymes could help extend his life or slow his metabolism. Yet, when it comes to the issue of hibernation there are examples of interesting evidence to suggest that the management of breakdown and absorption of fat and glucose may play a role in hibernation for those mammals that practice this. Therefore, one could speculate that Tooms, by consuming extra quantities of liver enzymes, Tooms' body was more proficient about breaking down sugars and fats so that over the course of 30 years, he's able to depend on his reserves. One could also speculate to help explain his youthful appearance is that his metabolism was so reduced over this same period of time, that all the cells throughout his body hardly aged. Then again, that would be an extreme possibility in established biology.

Opening Speculation / Contortion Ability / Bile Feeder / The Possibility of Human Hibernation / Could He Exist?

Yet what about the possibility of Human Hibernation, is it possible in the natural world? There has been some surprising research and examples of such a theoretical possibility. Up until this year scientists understood why animals went into hibernation, but not how. In 2005, there was a pioneering study done at North Carolina State University where scientists uncovered two key genes that are responsible for the production of enzymes that are essential to the hibernation process. What is more, these enzymes are present in humans, although under different circumstances.

Both genes are concerned with regulating how the body uses up and conserves its energy storage. In humans and animals, most of our energy is produced by breaking down our glucose stores; a smaller portion is produced to break down fats. The first 'hibernating gene' controls the production of an enzyme that breaks down fats into products that can be used for energy. Generally, humans and animals tend to not break down their fat deposits since it's easier to use up glucose for the same purpose. However, hibernating squirrels can use their fat deposits to produce a steady supply to maintain their bodies.

The second 'hibernating gene' produces an enzyme that helps to conserve the body's supply of glucose so it isn't used up too rapidly. In addition, this enzyme ensures that the remaining supply of glucose left over from the body's last meal is used to maintain the body's most vital systems - the brain and central nervous system.

Both genes working together are responsible for allowing squirrels to enter and survive a hibernating state. Such knowledge of these enzymes might help scientist to discover how to induce a hibernating state in humans. The next goal is to identify the genes that begins the hibernation process. Last April, 2005, scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research center in Seattle, induced a state of reversible metabolic hibernation in mice, this achievement being the first demonstration of 'Hibernation on demand'.

Considering that Tooms, in a sense, could execute a similar instinctual 'hibernation on demand', this only helps to raise the question further if such an ability in humans is so far-fetched. Hutchinson's lead investigator Mark Roth PhD of the basic science division, explained, "We are, in essence, temporarily converting mice from warm-blooded to cold-blooded creatures, which is exactly the same thing that happens naturally when mammals hibernate. We think this may be a latent ability that all mammals have - potentially even humans - and we're just harnessing it and turning it on and off, inducing a state of hibernation on demand."

During a state of hibernation, cellular activity slows to a near standstill, which reduces dramatically an organism's need for oxygen. While the notion of putting a human or placing a human organ into an oxygen-free state of biological limbo and then reversing the process at will with no ill effects might sound improbable, dozens of documented cases exist of humans surviving prolonged hibernation-like states.

One recent example occurred in May, 1999, when a female Norwegian skier was rescued after submersion in icy water for more than an hour. When rescued she was clinically dead with no heartbeat, no respiration, and her body temperature had fallen to 57 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 98.6 F). She was resuscitated and since has made a good mental and physical recovery. Another example occurred in February 2001 when Canadian toddler Erika Nordby made headlines around the world. She wandered around during the night and nearly froze to death. Before she was resuscitated, her heart had stopped beating for two hours and her temperature had dropped to 61 F. She made a full recovery.

Roth has pointed out: "Understanding the connections between random instances of seemingly miraculous, unexplained survival in so-called clinically dead humans and our ability to induce - and reverse - metabolic quiescence in model organism could have dramatic implications for medical care."

Opening Speculation / Contortion Ability / Bile Feeder / The Possibility of Human Hibernation / Could He Exist?

Lastly, one must ask if Tooms existence is genetically possible? Based on what had been established about the protein called Hsp90 (Please see the Mutant article), if Tooms' ancestors had experienced a natural catastrophe from a couple of centuries before. There is the other possibility that their DNA was naturally altered from the exposure to another species. For example, in relation to Tooms ability to contort and stretch, being that the octopus is the only known species to stretch its limbs. If Toom's ancestors came from a region of the world where certain octopi breeds were prolific, their DNA could have been altered to share similar traits. The traits could have been regressive and were not triggered until the conception and birth of Tooms. Strictly speaking of course within extreme possibility as pointed out by Agent Mulder many times.

Therefore, while Eugene Victor Tooms might be a work of fiction, there is indeed some credible evidence that aspects of his behavior isn't exactly the fantastic whims of the writers, but something possible.

Medical research and additional material: XScribe
Additional material: Aly C

Living universe - Human Hibernation
FHCRC Medical Research Osteogenis Imperfecta

Page Editor: Red Scully

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