In the movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, scientists face the age-old problem for old age folks: Alzheimer’s. They concoct a potential cure for the disease, a disease in which the afflicted progressively lose hold of their memories, generally affecting solely the elderly. Before the cure is offered to the public, it is tested on animals to ensure the safety of its use on humans. The animal of choice is that closest genetically to humans, apes. The cure, as well, involves genetics, as it is a gene therapy meant to enhance the afflicted’s ability to retain memories by introducing to the body a virus with helpful genes.
As you might imagine, the plot starts to complicate as the apes start to rise to power. This occurs by an unanticipated effect on the apes of becoming exceedingly mentally advanced. Not only did the cure develop to the point where, when applied to the apes, it did not kill them; beyond that, it brought them, intellectually, to a whole new level. In fact, to a fairly human level. This is where the events that pass become rather scientifically questionable. Therefore, this is where we set off looking into the science in the movie.
Realistically speaking, gene therapy of the sort discussed in the movie is not at all up to the feat of bringing an animal mind to the intellectual capacity of learning English and developing human thought processes. It is a relatively new method utilized mainly in remedying children’s immune and autoimmune disorders by providing one or two new genes that are either missing or nonfunctional in the patient’s body. Rather than offering a functional gene, the therapy changes the functioning of the apes’ brains entirely in the movie.
More silly science in the film comes about in the simple application of the cure to the test species. The virus would, in the real world, be injected into the body so as to access the brain. A respiratory exposure, on the other hand, where the apes are forced to inhale the cure as it is pumped as a gas into their cells, would not make its way to express the genes in the brain. The purpose this therapy’s research truly has had for bettering the brain has been to develop temporary fixes and would express the good genes there, but even therapy targeted at the apes’ brains would not bring them up to speed with, and then beyond the level of human intellect. The only times such methods have been tested on humans have been in cases of fatal immunodeficiencies, where the test patient would die without taking any action. One more thing is that the real therapy involves the use of defective viruses, those that can act only as vehicles for transmitting the genes in the patient’s body and not persisting as a functional virus like in the movie.