Thursday, September 18, 2008
Greek myth and modern science
Whither Prometheus' Liver? Greek Myth and the Science of Regeneration
Carl Power, PhD, and John E.J. Rasko, MBBS, PhD
16 September 2008 | Volume 149 Issue 6 | Pages 421-426
Stem-cell biologists and those involved in regenerative medicine are fascinated by the story of Prometheus, the Greek god whose immortal liver was feasted on day after day by Zeus' eagle. This myth invariably provokes the question: Did the ancient Greeks know about the liver's amazing capacity for self-repair? The authors address this question by exploring the origins of Greek myth and medicine, adopting a 2-fold strategy. First, the authors consider what opportunities the ancient Greeks had to learn about the liver's structure and function. This involves a discussion of early battlefield surgery, the beginnings of anatomical research, and the ancient art of liver augury. In addition, the authors consider how the Greeks understood Prometheus' immortal liver. Not only do the authors examine the general theme of regeneration in Greek mythology, they survey several scholarly interpretations of Prometheus' torture.