Why Jack Bauer Never Went to the Bathroom

By Josh Bloom — Nov 28, 2016
Molecular biology never ceases to amaze. The 15-year-old question — why world-saver Jack Bauer never pees, eats or poops has been answered. Hint: He's got some very foreign DNA.

For all of you who are too refined to be rabid fans of 24, please go to PBS, where you can immerse yourself in such delights as "Farm to Table Family" or "Wai Lana Yoga."

While these shows are unquestionably enlightening to those with a more refined palate, the rest of us less-evolved types, who dwell in a different sociocultural universe, tend to have more pedestrian tastes. Rather than art museums and opera, we lean toward simpler pleasures, like professional wrestling and The Walking Dead. (Both are real, by the way.)

Just because I'm low class doesn't mean that I'm dumb, though. For example, the scientist in me has long wondered why, for eight seasons, encompassing a total of 192 hours (1), Jack Bauer never once had to use the men's room. I finally found out, thanks to a paper that was picked up by my news feed: Jack Bauer is not human, at least not entirely. His supernatural abilities can be attributed to genetic modification, and it wasn't even done by Monsanto or the Koch brothers.

The real answer lies in a 2016 paper from the Journal of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, entitled "Pharmacophore-based screening of differentially-expressed PGF, DDIT4, COMP and CHI3L1 from hMSC cell lines reveals five novel therapeutic compounds for primary osteoporosis, and why Jack Bauer doesn't pee." It is most intriguing. 

Before joining CTU (2), Jack disappeared for a couple of years, during which time the CIA, with technological help from The Food Babe, created the first successful hybridized human. And it worked like gangbusters. Jack was able to retain his boyish good looks and deadly combat skills, but a deeper look into his genome reveals cutting edge modern biotechnology. The "new" Jack contained allele variants of CYP2D6,  NAT2 genes, and upregulated GSTM1 and GSTT1, homozygous deleted genotypes. In other words, his metabolism was altered by insertion of genes three different animal species. Here they are:

  • Thee-toed sloths don't just move slowly. They climb out of their trees to defecate once a week. A week contains 168 hours, yet Jack managed to hold it in for 192. Probably experimental error, and something suitable for research by NRDC

Jack Bauer's mutant human-sloth DNA. Original photo: phys.org

  • Birds do not urinate, so the selection of birds to turn Jack Bauer into a transgenic entity is unlimited. Fortunately the CIA picked the right bird, over the objection of the Food Babe (3), who couldn't spell it:

Why Jack Doesn't Urinate  Original photo: Twistedsifter.com

  • OK, so we have now established that Jack, through the marvels of molecular biology, doesn't produce any waste products, so this must mean that he can never eat or drink anything—something that 24 fans realized years ago. How did the CIA pull this off? Not so easy. They had to find this hideous life form and sequence its genome. 

Olms, aka "cave salamanders" (Proteidae anguinus), live in underwater caves in Italy and the Balkans. They can go for 10 years without eating, so the incorporation of olm DNA into Special Agent Bauer was essential. Unfortunately, the first experiment didn't go so well: 

If you're wondering why I'm opining about a TV series that ended six years ago, it's because I'm trying to force myself to watch Designated Survivor. It's kind of stupid, but Kiefer is still awesome, even though he doesn't hit anyone.


(1) For you non-24 viewers, each episode of 24 took place in real time, so 192 episodes equals 192 hours.

(2) CTU stands for Counter Terrorist Unit, a fictitious branch of the government. One complaint of many long time 24 watchers is that for an agency that is supposed to be secret and secure, anyone can walk right in:  less security than an ice cream truck. One episode that never aired involved the Rose Bowl Parade taking a wrong turn and marching through the building. Too bad. Jack could have kicked all of their asses without having to stop for a Mountain Dew.

(3) As with any experiment, errors are unavoidable. In the Supplementary Information section, the authors revealed a sample error: The Blue Gray Gnat-catcher's DNA was accidently mixed with that of the Food Babe. The result—a bird too dumb to fly.


Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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