We grow up learning that we’ll live and die. We learn immortality is an illusion sought after since the beginning of human history. We learn death is the reason life is precious, and the dream of immortality is a fool’s errand. Those who follow it are destined only for sadness. But is it true? The more we learn about genetics, the more we realize that, indeed, it is possible to live forever.
Why Do We Age?
Time to complicate aging!
Throughout life, cell division replaces dead cells in order to keep you healthy. Inside cells are bundles of storage complexes known as chromosomes. Inside these chromosomes are chromatin. For the sake of this article, all you need to know is that chromatin stores the DNA–the code responsible for many of the traits we possess. When these chromosomes split, a centromere binds them together temporarily. Either half of the duplicated chromosome is called a chromatid, at the end of which is the telomere–a little thing that could one day make it possible to live forever.
You still with us?
The telomere is the most important part of the whole bundle. The telomere caps each chromatid, preventing degradation of a cell during replication. The problem is this: When your cells divide, the telomeres themselves begin to break down. Our bodies don’t have the ability to create new telomeres, and so over time our chromosomes stop replicating with accuracy. This causes aging.
There are other factors that help determine the aging process, but telomeres are a major player. Keep them alive, and suddenly it is possible to live forever.
Immortality in Animals
Lobsters grow until death. Because of disease and predators, they never live forever. The organs of turtles (you know, those things that make up an organism) do not degrade. Like lobsters, they could theoretically live forever if diseases were eradicated and they were placed in an environment free of predators. Other animals simply regenerate. If you’re one of these animals, then guess what: It is possible to live forever.
Why can’t humans? The answer lies in our genetic code. Learn to manipulate that, and we’ll attain immortality.
Immortality in Humans
Animals are one thing, and humans another. A handful of people around the world have developed a rare genetic condition that prevents them from aging. Evidently, biological immortality isn’t such a fairytale. We know it is possible to live forever because these people don’t grow OR age. Naturally, scientists are very interested in the condition. In one case, an American man, 29, has the body of a prepubescent child. In another, a Brazilian woman, 31, appears no older than an infant.
It Is Possible to Live Forever, But How Close Is Science?
Researchers have spent lifetimes studying the subject. Scientists have greatly extended the lives of organisms by conferring resistances to a number of ailments that would usually kill them. Perhaps the first step for humans is therefore ending obesity, or eradicating heart disease and cancer.
But we don’t want an extension; we want an absolute. Other scientists have studied some of the anti-aging animals and discovered specific genes associated with growing older. Turns out humans hold the very same genes. In order to test the gene-related theories on humans, we unfortunately need to learn how to switch the genes on and off. Scientists are confident we’ll one day be able to do this.
We know many of the reasons why aging occurs. All of them have to do with genetic code, and we therefore know aging is merely a genetic mutation present in most species. Scientists are confident we’ll be able to tackle this obstacle in the near future. It is possible to live forever. Of course, we’ll still be prone to accidents–barring regenerative nanotechnology or the uploading of our minds into the bodies of robots–and still die sooner or later. But the timing of our deaths would become much more indefinite.[recent_posts type=”post, portfolio” category=”” count=”1, 2, 3, 4″ offset=”1, 2, 3…” orientation=”horizontal, vertical” no_image=”true” fade=”true”]
If it is possible to live forever, would you choose to do so? Do you believe science will discover immortality, or are we still chasing a fairy tale?