It seems that genetic engineering is not as simple as walking into a doctor's office and paying for enhancement. There are always unforeseen situations that one must deal with. An increase in a healing factor may give you cancer, along with other problems.

Would it be theoretically possible to create a human being like him without any downsides to the body? A being with super strength, speed, whose muscles never tire due to lack of lactic acid building up in them, and all other human abilities enhanced with none of the drawbacks? Or are there unavoidable consequences that can't be avoided with those enhancements?

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    $\begingroup$ Genetically engineering an adult runs into the issue that the adult body has already been built and so there is not much the genes can change. Are you okay with genetically engineering a fetus so that it can grow into a super soldier? $\endgroup$
    – Anketam
    Feb 26 '17 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, the answer is of course no with our current level of knowledge. But is this maybe set in a world with much more advanced technology? Some humungous breakthrough would have to happen in order to cause the changes you describe You're also going to have to be more specific about what you mean by super strength and "never" tire. Can humans be so strong that they can lift things greater than their body's max compressive strength? Nope. Can a human run forever without food or rest? Of course not, that violates thermodynamics. You might need to flesh things out a bit before we can answer. $\endgroup$
    – Dog
    Feb 26 '17 at 5:15
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    $\begingroup$ If you do not propose a method, we cannot tell if there are drawbacks. That is the thing with handwavium... If you said: "increased adrenaline levels" we could answer "heart attack" or "too violent to follow orders/civil life". If you said "increased intelligence" we could say "refusal to obey" or "manipulating his superiors to get his own objectives", etc. You ask a very vague question and ask us to provide the specifics that you should be working on: -1. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Feb 26 '17 at 18:07

Our physical abilities evolved with survival in mind, and in the wild, survival doesn't always go to the fastest and strongest. The most significant and universal downside to general enhanced physical capability is increased food requirements, so living things will not evolve to the point where their environment cannot provide enough food for them.

So I would say yes, at least in theory - you could make a human who was harder, better, faster, stronger - though they would need to eat more than a normal human. There is no way of getting around this, but as long as you're not doing it to a whole population, that's not such a big deal in today's society.

As for how to do it, well, it might take some experimentation to get it right. This has actually been done with mice to make super-mice with pretty much the same qualities you're looking for, but in addition to the expected increased food requirements, the gene that was flipped also seems to have made the mice more aggressive... so watch out for those psycho prototypes!

Oh, and you're probably not going to be able to do this with an already living human, unless gene therapy develops significantly beyond its current point. You're going to need to genetically modify a zygote and grow your super-soldier from scratch.

Cancer is also an issue whenever you deal with increased cell regeneration. But you don't usually make super-soldiers because you expect them to live long and satisfying lives. Unless cancer treatments are improved, anyway.

Between naturally increased aggression, high chance of painful death by cancer, and the angst that comes from being created as a living weapon, this seems more likely as a supervillain origin than a Captain America. If you want to turn a living human into a weapon, better make them a cyborg instead.

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    $\begingroup$ And the aggressiveness would be why the doctor who made him had to look for a person who met a very specific set of criteria and go from there, instead of enhancing any person off the street. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 '17 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ "you could make a human who was harder, better, faster, stronger" - and part of the enhancement process would be to play Daft Punk on repeat 24/7 ;) $\endgroup$
    – Mrkvička
    Feb 26 '17 at 19:14

This question is very open-ended, so it will include items that have trade offs rather than unquestionable optimizations. So the answer is no.


One of the things that made Captain America believable is that he's a "one off". As in, since he was created, they were never able to do it again.

The main scientist who did this dies soon after his creation, and from the plot of the movie, we do know that he'd been specifically looking at Steve to create it--so it's possible that what he created was very specific to Steve, and that there actually isn't a "one-size fits all" solution to the problem of creating a super-solider in this world or in ours.

I do have some problems with the premise, because it doesn't actually fit what Steve is. You say:

a being with super strength, speed, whose muscles never tire due to lack of lactic acid building up in them, and all other human abilities enhanced with none of the drawbacks?

But there is evidence in the movies and some of the comics that this is not true, that this doesn't track with how Cap actually works--and rightly so. You can't build muscle without destroying it a little. It's those tiny tears that make you stronger. And Steve does tire, it just takes more than it does for a normal human. He's also not super fast.

Getting tired is a function of any biological body, it's just a matter of level of stamina. It's not possible to create someone who never gets tired. Steve sleeps, maybe not as much as a normal person, but he does. And he needs to eat. Without these "draw backs" you would have an entirely static individual who would not be able to improve their strength or stamina.

But if I were making a super solider, there's one single thing I would do--if it were possible (which it is not at this time without nasty-side effects)...I would make them better at using and gathering oxygen.

Or I would specifically train them using an oxygen boost

Paratroopers had to be in excellent shape then (and now) to withstand the rigors of falling out of the sky to who knows what but this mission was so important the general called for an extra 20 days of super intense training. Bradley tells us that they used supplemental oxygen to breathe while riding stationary bicycles and got pushed way, way, way beyond where they had ever been pushed before. No pills, nothing but oxygen enhanced exercise and rest. Bradley says “it was incredible. I was already in fantastic combat shape but after this training I was in the best shape ever by a very wide margin." source

Any super-solider program that's realistic will take actual work, time, and it's likely going to be a multi-discipline body science type thing, looking to push regular men a little beyond the norm, but not necessarily to the levels you are looking for. I would also argue that like athletes, they will have a limited window of time in which they could do this--age is a problem.

What is happening in the real world is more..technologically based, which comes with its own issues.

My answer to your base question, as it stands is no. Not without any drawbacks.


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