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So, the protagonist of the story I'm developing is not a normal human, she was basically a guinea pig for illegal genetic experiments when this whole CRISPR thing was still a novelty(AKA "now") and has quite a formidable physical and mental performance, but it's not so impressive anymore when the main story takes place (AKA "near future") because getting genetically enhanced has already become a widespread, common practice.

I got inspired by real-life cases of people with "superpowers" due to gene mutations and also some animals with useful capabilities.

One of these capabilities regeneration.

At one point of the story she gets kidnapped and violently beaten by a gang of vandals in an abandoned building, and because she is very tough she can withstand a serious beating. She was hit in the head with a metal pipe several times before collapsing, after which she was left for dead. She is rescued after a few hours by a couple of urban explorers.

After a few days she wakes up in a hospital; other than the psychological trauma that causes her to have post-traumatic stress and explosive rage attacks, I thought about some neurological problems that she could face because her brain got rewired differently when it regenerated.

Possibilities included Prosopagnosia (inability to remember/recognize faces) that makes her resort to other means of recognizing people (Voice, smell, body language, etc.) and also chronic headaches that require large doses of analgesics because she is resistant to drugs due to her fast metabolism, so she needs larger and larger doses until she is resorting to horse anesthetics.

Given the description above, does this clinical condition seem believable from a biological point of view?

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    $\begingroup$ I have a few issues with this as it stands. 1) Unless she was modified as a zygote, CRISPR/Cas-9 cannot make modifications to a mature multicellular organism, 2) even those creatures that have regenerative properties do not regenerate neurons particularly well, and 3) this is clumsy treatment of PTSD. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jul 1, 2022 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ @jdunlop What do you mean by "this is clumsy treatment of PTSD"? I didn't even told how it would be treated beacause i didn't thought about this part through yet. Do you mean that getting PTSD after getting nearly beaten up to death is clumsy? If so, how? Can you elaborate on that, please? $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2022 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ It's all up to you. Since this brain regeneration mechanism is fictional, you can have any neurological size effects that you like for your story. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jul 1, 2022 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ @jdunlop "1)" 👍 beat me .. though there are a few things that can be corrected / altered in a mature organism with an extended course of viral gene therapy .. particularly with things that we shed and regrow, we might conceivably alter someone's hair, eye or skin colour for instance .. but new organs and the like (🤔 yes I know 🙄 skin is an organ, but you know what I mean, structures not cells, pigmentation and other things that come from individual cells can be altered, the established structures can't) are off the table until the patient has offspring. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Jul 1, 2022 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PauloRaposo - having PTSD after being beaten up is reasonable. Pairing it immediately with "explosive rage attacks" is a little too much like Hollywood PTSD. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jul 1, 2022 at 20:01

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To start with, let's make this mutant. We want to add a long piece of DNA with many genes to the embryo; CRISPR isn't actually required for this but would help to make the effect more predictable. Let's pull out the goodies:

  • ARHGAP11B is the archetypal "hopeful monster" gene credited for bigger human brains in evolution. Let's triple it, and remember caesarian is not named after Caesar; like any good thug the man was named after the act of cutting.

  • "Upregulate the Wnt pathway". I will be fuzzy on the details here because improving a human brain is not something with a lot of research to cite, but in general the Wnt pathway promotes brain regeneration, and probably also helps to increase brain size.

  • Plagiarize the elephants. We want more active regeneration, more growth ... but not the cancer that comes with it! Is it impossible? Nope - just look at the elephants. They have much bigger bodies and much less cancer because they have many duplicate copies of the crucial tumor suppressor p53. In human tumors, there are two alleles at one gene and once they suffer mutations the tumor can trounce us. So basically everybody wants this hotcakes gene therapy treatment; they may have the same as your hero, but in her case she needs it to avoid what would otherwise be a very high risk of early death.

Now how does this affect your hero? Well, Wnt signalling is overall a good thing for mental health, preventing damaged cells from killing themselves. Medicinal use of lithium is (partly) meant to increase Wnt pathway activity. Nonetheless with some frantic searching I was able to rustle up a candidate for a Wnt-triggered disorder, NEDAMSS This is a very serious condition (see OMIM), much too severe for your protagonist; but you might extract some small part of the weakest version, such as hypotonia, as a sign of something out of kilter.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a good starting place, but doesn't seem to answer the OP's question. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Jul 2, 2022 at 0:44

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