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We’re all familiar with the heroes that can’t die. Honey-badger (with the claws and the angry voice), Dreadpeel, that girl with the weird cheerleading obsession...

Basically they all have the same superpower: any one of their cells contains the blueprint and exact reconstruction details for their entire undamaged body and can, with relative ease, repair any and all damage. If even one cell remains alive it can regenerate their full body plan, including memories and brain patterns.

But somehow, despite the fact that these heroes regularly bleed everywhere or lose limbs that then regrow; the cells that have separated from the ‘hero’ never grow back into a full being. You would expect a dismembered arm to grow back a torso as well as the torso regrowing an arm, and then before you know it you’re neck deep in spandex clad immortals.

The question, then, is how a biological entity capable of ‘healing’ at such an incredible rate can ensure that only one copy of itself remains.

The fewer secondary superpowers (like every cell having ESP) required the better.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 24 '18 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ See also the related scifi.stackexchange.com/q/14417/4918 "Out of two organic lumps of Wolverine, what decides which one would regenerate to full Wolverine?" and scifi.stackexchange.com/q/119743/4918 "If you cut Deadpool exactly in half, which half would regenerate?" smbc-comics.com/comic/2012-07-05 $\endgroup$ – b_jonas Jul 25 '18 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Also note that if the superhero intends to reattach the part that was cut off, somehow the cells withhold part of their ability long enough for that to happen. A good example is when hulk ripped wolverine in half: his upper half climbed up to his lower half so he could hold it on and heal the two together. Why didn't he just let the lower half heal back? Maybe it would have taken longer? I don't remember for sure, but I think that incident acknowledged that it was an epic feat for hulk to rip apart the adamantine skeleton, but ignored the loose ends (eg: how did the adamantine reattach?) $\endgroup$ – Aaron Jul 25 '18 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron An adamantium skeleton does not necessarily mean adamantium ligaments holding the bones together... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jul 26 '18 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal I have seen other people hint at that as well, however I think the reality of how that is treated depends on the whim of the author at that moment. Some days it takes a nuke or the hulk to do something, so it's portrayed as epic, and some days it's allowed to be mundane. If there is nothing special holding the adamantine skeleton together, it should be a relatively simple matter to tear him apart any day. Note that I am not disagreeing with you; it is the writers who are inconsistent... or maybe our fault for over-analyzing. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Jul 26 '18 at 14:37

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Quorum sensing would be a very effective mechanism. This is a real life biological mechanism which is used by many small creatures like bacteria. Basically, it's a way of detecting how many similar entities are out there, and changing behavior when there's enough.

Yeast is one such exemplar. It usually reproduces asexually, which is very effective in unforgiving environments. However, we know that sexual reproduction is better for the health of the group as a whole. Yeast knows it too. If it lands in a nice environment (such as a bucket of grain-water that I want to turn into beer), it will procreate asexually until it senses that there's a lot of yeast around. At that point it transitions to reproducing sexually, taking advantage of the great nutritious environment. (It also changes metabolisms, which changes what it leaves behind after metabolizing the sugars. Brewers prefer the flavor of the latter phase, so we make sure to put enough yeast in to ensure it rapidly enters this desirable phase).

This mechanism is also used by bacteria that form biofilms. A thin biofilm is a disadvantage because you spend a lot of energy excreting chemicals that prevent you from moving, but you don't gain benefits until it's thick enough to start protecting you. Bacteria that form these films typically quorum sense to tell all of them "We have enough cells. This is the time to start acting like a biofilm."

If the cells in your superhero used a similar policy, they would cease to reproduce once they left the body because they could not sense quorum. This also has the neat effect of possibly preventing the superpower from turning on when the kid was born. It might not be until puberty that he has a quorum to turn on this superpower. Books where teens get superpowers are good money right now =D

Also potentially interesting might be algorithms like Raft. Raft is an algorithm to automatically generate these structures. Cells could use an algorithm like Raft to elect a lead cell, which can speak for the entire body. This would probably be a cell in the brain, because of its nice neural connections. If that cell dies or stops talking (and it might eventually die for some reason), the other cells can use the algorithm to elect a new leader.

If your superhero had such an algorithm, a hacked off limb would immediately notice that there was no lead cell. It's cells would enter an election phase to elect a new leader. Upon electing one, it would do a roll call, see that there is not enough of a quorum to act like a superhero, and the limb would act like... well... a hacked off limb.

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    $\begingroup$ A lot of good stuff in this answer, but wouldn't this result in the failure of the superhero to recover from being blown to smithereens? Each individual piece would fail to reach quorum, and so none would regrow. But in the superheros described, one (and exactly one) tiny remaining piece can regrow into the full being again. $\endgroup$ – tobek Jul 22 '18 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ @tobek True. A lot has to be said about invulnerability to figure out how far one has to go (I'm a big fan of using multi-megaton nuclear bombs to make sure those invulnerable people don't stay invulnerable). If you need to, the Raft algorithms could provide a solution. Let the individual cells replicate as though they had qourum, but once they find a second regenerated superhero, they undergo voting to figure out which one keeps the skill. Too much beyond that and we start having to get into magic and defining what a superhero "is," especially after one of those pesky nukes. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 22 '18 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon now you can have a super-cheap army as long as you don't let the dreadpeels touch each other. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jul 22 '18 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon: That is the kind of brain twisting book I’d read. Each city has its own super powered protector, none of whom can ever meet lest they start killing each other off. Throw in some Handlers dedicated to making sure no superheroes meet, a few comedy sidekicks. Boom. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 22 '18 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ There can be only one! $\endgroup$ – R.. Jul 22 '18 at 16:39
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There is exactly one important cell - the Core

The Core is what coordinates the super-healing. Every other cell is unimportant and will simply die when cut off from a "normal" body. They can't really regenerate on the super-natural basis that you assume, it just looks to the observer as if they would. Basically when you see a torso regenerating into a somewhat normal-looking human you know that the torso currently contains the Core and this Core is initiating the Restore-Humanoid-Body-Protocol.

This special cell is also able to move around and assume a different function in the body. This way it's not so easy for the super-villains to pinpoint which cell is the important one by killing the hero over and over again, always keeping an eye on which part is the one that regenerates.

The cell can also not be copied because magic, which is why there is always only exactly one.

This also means that if you manage to destroy this one specific cell the super-hero will really die.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 24 '18 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Launch into sun, or otherwise introduce superhero to thermal processes that result in atomic or subatomic breakdown of all cells nearly simultaneously, and that pesky core cell is bound to get plasmafied too. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Jul 25 '18 at 21:32
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Healing is partially or totally spiritual.

Each hero has billions of cells, but just one soul. Only the body portion with the soul can regenerate.

If the body is torn into multiple small pieces, the disembodied soul randomly picks a suitable part and kickstarts it into life. All other body parts, without connection to the soul, wither and die.

If you don't like the word or concept of soul, substitute ki, ka, soma, mana, cosmos, prana, moxie or whatever other mystical energy type you like best.

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    $\begingroup$ I dig it. It reminds me of the Kirlian photographs where missing pieces are still represented by an intact aura. The aura guides. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 22 '18 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of the philotes in Card's Ender series. $\endgroup$ – M.Herzkamp Jul 23 '18 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ This is the approach in Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere universe (there are multiple magic systems that are part of a larger magic framework, many of which include healing). The healing works based on spiritual/cognitive aspects of the person, so it's highly influenced by what they see as "healthy" and "themselves". This basically externalizes the self to something more meta-physical though, which may not work for every type of story. $\endgroup$ – JMac Jul 23 '18 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ While not exactly creative, this answer addresses the issue at hand simply and effectively. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Jul 24 '18 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ I like it because the soul could also evade the body and reincarnate somewhere else. Great way of escaping prisons :) $\endgroup$ – Antzi Jul 26 '18 at 7:25
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The fewer secondary superpowers (like every cell having ESP) required the better.

Each cells can regrow the entire body, but cannot create organic matter from a void.

Therefore it needs to have a blood supply, since blood is how building blocks are carried to all the cells in the organism.

So, when Miss WipeMeNot got a chopped arm, both the arm and the body will start regrowing: the arm will quickly finish all its energy storage, starving, while the body will have a constant supply of nutrients, and will be able to regrow the missing arm.

An interesting experiment would be to observe what would happen when pulling out the heart from the body, but that something nobody achieved, yet.

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    $\begingroup$ It is not a trivial thing, growing back an arm. Regenerative Superheros build according to this L.Dutch protocol will have generous stores of onboard protein and energy with which to regenerate. The appearance of such heroes is left to the imagination of the reader. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 21 '18 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk: So newly regenerated Dreadpeel would look like a weedy little runt, but full power Dreadpeel has muscles on his muscles muscles, even though they don’t aid in strength at all? That makes a remarkable amount of sense... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 22 '18 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ A certain non-medical Doctor followed this concept (with a twist) when his hand was cut off. He was able to grow back a new hand, but the old hand didn't grow into anything until it was later bathed in excess regeneration energy. $\endgroup$ – EvoGamer Jul 23 '18 at 13:01
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A never really covered idea about these regenerative beings is that they create matter out of nothing. They don't draw stuff from the ground or air as that would mean they draw from kilometers around or they would metabolize their hacked off pieces and nearby people, enemy villain who did the hacking included. So lets assume theres a kind of dark energy/matter that floats around the universe not interacting with anything except people who have a connection and use it for their various superpowers.

This means that the moment the super healer gets chopped, the dark matter that powers him makes a "choice", this could either be a choice of majority (which piece contains the most mass, that's the one that remains powered) or a choice of majority connection. For example a connection could be the nervous system as most superpowers can be controlled, so upon a beheading the head would regrow a body rather than the body a head. If blown to smithereens the dark matter "sees" each piece break off and chooses the largest piece of brain matter until only individual cells exist. Possibly the dark matter can still choose cells that broke off in case the individual clumps it chose first get ripped to atoms anyway.

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    $\begingroup$ Ooh.. all the bits are still connected by wherever they get the energy to regenerate from. I hadn’t thought of that, obvious as it is. Doesn’t even require conscious choice, it can just be an minimum-energy-state.. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 22 '18 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Bloggs combine this with the Quorum idea and you might have your answer. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jul 22 '18 at 19:12
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The cells do the math before they are fully severed

Each cell in the nervous system generates a weak signal that adds with its neighboring nerve cells forming a regenerate signal. The regenerate signal is strongest in the core of the body along the spinal cord and generally gets weaker as it goes through out the body with the obvious exception of the head where it is pretty strong there too. Cells in the body can measure the regenerate signal to determine how far away from the core part of the body they are.

Upon taking damage the pain signal gets sent out to the entire body much like the regenerate signal. Cells on either side of the injury compare the pain signal to the regenerate signal to determine if they are on the core side of the injury or the outer part of the injury. If they are on the core side the pain signal will trigger them to start regenerating. If they are on the outer part of the injury they do not regenerate until the damage between them and the core side is regenerated.

Cells that lose contact with the body like from blood splatters do not get the pain signal, and thus do not calculate if they need to regenerate. Any part of the body that has been severed will stop getting and producing a regenerate signal and as such will lose the ability to regenerate. For example: if the right arm is cut off, it will not regenerate even if the body is later vaporized.

This solution relies on that damage is not instantaneous or extreme. With enough destructive power one can overcome the regenerative ability and kill them. The nervous system can send signals at 286 mph (you can up this for a super if you want). So if a speedster or weapon can launch an attack that is moving faster than 286 mph and it propagates out uniformly destroying all neighboring cells and never drops below the 286 mph then no part of the body gets the pain signal and thus do not know that they need to begin regeneration.

One last Warning: Note that if the regenerate signal was ever reverse engineered a person could mess with the regenerate signal in the person to cause odd effects to occur like budding, or completely jam it to make all cells think they are part of the damage and thus should not regenerate.

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  • $\begingroup$ There would need to be some minimum fraction necessary, and if it's less than 1/2, there's always the chance of winding up with two or more heroes. And anyway, all the villains have to do is keep on chopping. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Jul 22 '18 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer I do not follow. There is no need for a minimum threshold. As they are being cut in half, the body responds to it by deciding which part regenerates while the other dies. The larger part will not necessarily be the part that regenerates. Also, if they are cut in half repeatedly before they fully regenerate, the body makes each decision based off of what is remaining. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Jul 22 '18 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ As long as each cluster’s understanding of ‘whole’ changes quickly as well I can see this working. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 22 '18 at 7:32
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Cells are semi-psychic

Each cell emits a small psychic aura, which is strengthened by the cells around it. This aura operates outside the realm of physics (On another plane of existence, perhaps?), and all cells can 'detect' the aura at any range, instantaneously. The aura can't transmit information - It's just a "Yep, it exists" signal.

The strength of the aura determines which part begins regenerating. If the cells sense an aura that is stronger than their own - That is, it's attached to a cluster of cells larger than theirs - They don't regenerate. If theirs is the largest, they will begin regenerating.

As cell division is not an exact process or punctually timed process, even if you manage to split the cell count and aura strength exactly in half, you'll only end up with one full body. Both would start to regenerate, but one would end up outpacing the other - At which point, the larger one would continue and the other one would not.

This allows for any one cell to regrow the entire body (If all other cells are destroyed), and also ensures no budding.

On the other hand, it doesn't take into account things like memories, providing the actual resources for regenerating, etc. But that's largely hand-waved anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly what I came here to say. Maybe a slight variation would be that when the cells hear a louder signal, they start following its blueprint instead of just stopping. E.g. a cell starts to grow into an arm, but discovers a louder signal which determines that it now needs to become a liver. Also, if the parts are far enough away, you might have budding, but when the clones are reunited, they reincorporate into one body. Could make for some interesting stories. $\endgroup$ – BlackThorn Jul 23 '18 at 16:27
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Super healing is controlled by the brain

Normal cell healing is mostly autonomous. The brain does not tell cells how to heal cuts, etc. However, this makes it difficult for sophisticated healing mechanism to occur. Few creatures can regrow limbs, and even then, usually only certain body parts.

Super healing requires more intelligent processes -- recognition of the nature of the wound, routing of nutrients and coordination of cells, etc. A certain structure in the brain forms to orchestrate this, near to the structures which control heart rate, breathing, and other subconscious processes. As such, whichever part of the body has nerve connections to that part of the brain will heal.

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  • $\begingroup$ If a person is bifurcated (split in half vertically), each half has approximately half of the brain. How does this solution cope with that scenario? $\endgroup$ – Anketam Jul 22 '18 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ In this solution, the person can not regenerate if that part of the brain is destroyed. Maybe make it very small, and possibly even calcified so it cannot be easily damaged. $\endgroup$ – Phoenix Jul 22 '18 at 15:11
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First law of thermodynamics says NO!

The question, then, is how a biological entity capable of ‘healing’ at such an incredible rate can ensure that only one copy of itself remains.

The other thing to consider here is what is powering the healing. The first law of thermodynamics is that the total energy of an isolated system is constant. i.e. you can't magick out energy to heal, you're consuming it from somewhere.

Consider an approach where:

  • the body consumes "itself" to generate energy to heal
  • the less energy the body has available, the less quickly it can heal
  • if there's no "available" energy left, the body can't heal.
  • superheroes who are stronger, faster, denser, etc, are able to produce their superhuman feats because they HAVE more energy in their cells.

So. Cut off a limb, and:

  • the limb "attempts" to heal, but then runs into the fact that it is attempting to regrow an entire body from the power than a limb holds... Nup, not even energy to create an entire body.
  • the body attempts to regrow the limb, and can successfully pull a portion of energy from all of the remaining limbs to grow the missing one. This has the side effect of weakening the superhero. They need to eat more afterwards to recoup their strength!

This is also an approach taken by several series I've read, one that comes to mind is Larry Correria's Monster Hunter International, where the only way to kill a werewolf without using silver, is to traumatise its body so much that its superhealing can no longer keep up with healing the damage.

In the scenario where a body is cleft in even halves...? Urm... The superhero pulls their two halves together, and the two halves re-grow together?

Actually, a scenario where a superhero with accelerated healing that is split in half, kept separately, and then kept alive, and thus regrows into two separate versions would be a fun book I'd like to read!

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree I'd love to see a super-healer that applies less handwavium. Say, super-healing but retains conservation of mass. So they'll heal, but will starve if they can't eat enough (so they're constantly eating to fuel their regeneration). Add to that a little budding effect so they end up with a load of little mini-mes from dismembered fingers and limbs. Would be fun :) $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Jul 23 '18 at 8:23
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Quantum Entanglement

You aksed for biology but I will answer you with physics. If you want a theory that could justify the link between your cells, just take a look at Quantum Entanglement.

Let’s say each Honey-badger’s cell contains one subatomic particle for each possible cells pair involving it. How do particles get entangled and spread into all his cells at the beginning? I don’t know and I think Honey-badger don’t know either! But one thing for sure, if anything happens to one of these particles, the entangle one will instantly get the information about it.

And what is real cool with this is that it's a real “instantly” here, the speed information transfer has no limit in theory. So you don’t have to care about Dreadpeel being cut in half and scattered onto different planets, the information will pass instantly!

Of course, this is an interpretation of Quantum Entanglement, and I ‘m sure an expert will say it’s non-sense… But take a look at the theory and I’m sure you will agree that what it can or cannot do is not "crystal clear"...

EDIT : See, I knew somebody would be able to demolish this answer but I didn’t think this would be OP himself! ^^

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    $\begingroup$ Sadly it’s not instantaneous information transfer (check out the No-Communication theorem), but something quantum would make a bit of sense. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 23 '18 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs but you could probably still combine this with the uncertainty-principle: All parts of the Body are in an undefined state of regenerating/not-regenerating. And as soon as one part of the body is observed regenerating, all other parts of the body collapse into the non-regenerating final state. $\endgroup$ – Falco Jul 23 '18 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the correction OP, I didn’t know about the no-communication theorem. Concerning the uncertainty-principle, this is brilliant. You should post your own answer as I would be ashamed to get reputation from your idea. $\endgroup$ – Freedomjail Jul 23 '18 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ Entanglement happens on the quantum level, does it not? It works with electrons, but not with slices of cake, right? Regeneration is a biological process, starfish do it, we do not, even though we are distantly related. It can't be a quantum process. $\endgroup$ – chiggsy Jul 26 '18 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ @chiggsy I disagree. Biology is based on chemistry: proteins are made of atoms and your DNA is just a big chain of nucleotide which are some small molecules… Electrons and all the other particles composing the “quantum level” are just a magnitude below the atom size so it’s not impossible to imagined a link between them. Moreover, nobody said that the healing mechanism of Honey-badger and a starfish were the same: I saw cats playing with their retractile claws without any adamantium involved… $\endgroup$ – Freedomjail Jul 26 '18 at 7:53
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Cells function as a collective

The cells function as a collective mechanism. Even when separated they are connected until cell death. The regeneration is controlled by the collective; Wherever the largest mass of cells create the greatest collective signal, that will be the source of regeneration. It is only if there is only one cell alive and it senses that is not connected to any other, that the single cell will begin to regenerate.

This might just be ESP...

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Time Paradox

Sure, each cell that survived could have formed a full new superhero. But there's a small chance that it didn't. All possible nows where multiple cells generated a body are inherently unstable and we just live in the one reality where only one new superhero was grown.

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  • $\begingroup$ This excludes a couple of possible time travel paradigms, but I like it. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 24 '18 at 15:56
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The brain makes backups of itself over radio waves

The body can rebuild itself perfectly from a basic DNA plan. But if the brain is destroyed, how can it be rebuilt with all the hero's memories? To achieve this, the brain is constantly sending radio streams that are received by all cells in the body which transcode the information into DNA that can later be used to rebuild a brain.

If an arm gets cut off, it will still receive these radio signals, indicating that the original hero is still alive nearby. So it does not attempt to grow into a new copy of the superhero. After some time it starts to decompose. Meanwhile the brain releases the right hormones to grow a new arm.

On the other hand, if the brain is destroyed, say by a ray gun or giant hammer, the radio transmission stops. All cells that remain alive assume that a new brain needs to be formed. If multiple separate body parts exist, the first one that grows a brain will start sending radio waves and the others will cease their regrowth efforts.

This creates some really interesting edge cases like when the hero loses a body part and then they are rapidly separated - or one of them is moved into a Faraday cage.

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Depending on how you want your healing to behave I submit a system like this, Whenever part of the hero is severed (eg an arm is cut off) the severed portion will quickly mutate cells to emit "I'm here" spores and mutate more cells as receivers. The mostly intact super hero's main body will quickly mutate or already have small numbers of cells that will emit "still alive" spores. If a severed limb detects any "still alive" spores it will immediately cease healing. If a limb only detects "I'm here" spores it will decode the "I'm here" spores for information on the other nearby body parts and if it thinks those parts are better suited to regrowth (more brain matter, higher mass, more reserves, etc) it will cease to regenerate.

One fun thing you could do with this system is that all inactive body parts could attempt to seek out the one that is growing, making tiny hairs to inch closer to the regenerating part of the super hero. This could also be used as a plot hook where the villain figures out he can guess which body part will grow the new Super from the spores. Or the villain saves "still alive" spores from a previous fight and before the fight starts sprays them on the super hero effectively making them mortal.

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  • $\begingroup$ This leaves so mushroom for plot hooks. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 26 '18 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ I apologise for the terrible pun. I’m really a fungi! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 26 '18 at 16:20
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Hormones

Many biological systems use signalling chemicals to inhibit the growth of other cells.

The largest functional chunk of the Heros body emits hormones that other remote cells can pick up which inhibits their growth factor. Only one hero can exist in an area at a time.

Although a determined attacker could obtain a sample before it was inhibited, remote it to a remote location, and grow a new copy.

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Each cell is a holographic quantum entangled computer of the whole person.

The super hero in question is actually a collection of organic cellular quantum computation masses.

A typical person has about 37 trillion cells, and 7E27 atoms, making each cell capable of having an entangled particle with every other cell in the body simultaneously. (source: google)

By allowing each cell to communicate and compute the state of the whole person, any damage to the person can be undone by allowing the portion of each cell that is a quantum computer to collapse the wavefunction so that it's entangled pairs are moved to their original state before the damage occured. The network of linked particles ensures the whole person can be restored from ambient energy sources allowing the motion of the particles into their undamaged positions.

Since each cell can signal every other cell, the cells can assume a policy of restoration to the largest available undamaged portion of the whole. If two are exactly equal, a random tiebreaker can occur to decide which section to restore from. If any amount if the entangled network is completely unavailable, new tissue is grown and new particles entangled.

Any additional mass can be acquired from the surrounding environment, or reused from damaged tissue that is available.

This would impose several limits on regeneration though:

In a near energy-less or mass-less environment regeneration cannot occur, so deep space would probably take a long time to regenerate from the stray photons and interstellar particles.

If every single cell is destroyed, and thus all quantum computers capable of collapsing the wavefunction of surrounding matter are destroyed, the person dies.

If the person is violently blown apart at over 50% light speed, the particles travelling in opposite directions redshift out of each other's universes and can no longer communicate, this could lead to duplicates in this scenario, but I think is hard enough to accomplish that we can consider it impossible in normal circumstances.

The amount of mass needed in each cell to link to every other cell is noticeable. chopped off limbs would lose close to 1% of it's mass as entangled particles are drawn away and back to the regenerating body.

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Asymmetric stem cells

There's a tree-like branching structure of super stem cells throughout the hero's body, similar in shape to other branching structures in the body such as the nervous system and the blood vessels.

These super stem cells don't divide randomly, they bud from one end. Each super stem cell is only able to regrow new super stem cells further along this structure from itself, and regrow ordinary flesh around itself. The ordered, structured nature of the super stem cell network is an essential part of how it knows not to grow eyeballs where there should be fingers or vice versa. Because of this, an arm can grow a new hand but a hand can't grow a new arm.

One consequence of this is that if you dug into the hero's organs with an ice cream scoop and took a piece that had the root of their super stem cell network in it, then your scoop of deli meat would grow a new hero and the original hero's skin would super-heal shut but they would be left with an internal wound that has no enhanced healing powers.

Another is that it may be possible to conduct permanent plastic surgery on the hero, assuming you can cut them faster than they heal, by keeping the threads of super stem cells intact but moving them around relative to each other.

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Extra-Dimensional Power Source

This healing violates conservation of mass and energy, blatantly, as none of these heroes consume anywhere near enough food to heal the way they do.

So, the energy has to come from somewhere, right?

So part of how their power functions is to reach out to wherever this energy is stored, and siphon it off to fuel the healing process.

We can visualize the source of power as like a bubble of energy floating in some extra dimensional space somewhere. The hero has some sort of inverse charge or similar phenomenon that is attractive to this energy. There is a bit of tension preventing this energy from crossing the border into our world, but when this tension is overcome, it forms a singular conduit to whatever is 'pulling' on it the hardest.

So, the larger/most conscious section of tissue wins the tug of war, bridges the gap, and pulls the energy into itself to fuel the healing. If no pieces of tissue are conscious or particularly large, than it's just which ever one coincidentally happens to bridge the gap first.

Narratively, this works well, as it doesn't really matter which of our hero's disassociated organs and/or limbs manages to start re-growing itself, and if it does, the 'magnetism' effect provides a mechanism for selection that can be worked in more or less arbitrarily without running the risk of violating the rules of your universe.

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Soul binding

Simply put, the hero's soul is always able to detect the smallest particles of his/her being.

When a complete molecular disintegration occurs (equally distributed), the soul oversees the remaining atoms and energizes them into forming previous (or new) physical structures, choosing from the groups of atoms that better combine with each other in order to rebuild the molecules for the body's cells.

The choice on how this regrown process is done is entirely up to the soul (this would technically allow to have slight or huge variations in the newly regrown physical being).

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