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The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (6/16)

Can Gene Mutations Generate Immortality? Harvard Research Team Says "Yes"

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0115701a1153970c-800wi Scientists are working on mutations to generate immortality.  This is not a comic book.  Early experiments have greatly extended the lifespan of bioen gineered worms, enhancing their genetic integrity and giving them resistance to many things that would normally kill them.  Again, this is not a comic book.  Or a horror movie.

Caenorhabditis Elegans, or C. Elegans for scientists who don't want to waste half their life saying the first word, are the all rounders of the genetic modification world.  An extremely simple and easy-to-incubate lifeform, they nevertheless model many vital genetic aspects and have been used in everything from cancer studies to biological computing prototypes.

Harvard medical school staff have engaged in (Elegans) immortality research based on a simple observation: certain cell lines are immortal.  You'll be gone by the end of the century, and your current skin'll be gone before the end of the month, but in your very existence the immortality of the first primate lives on.  While "somatic" cells (the cells that make everything except babies) wither and die, the "germ" cells (sperm and ova for us) make new organisms, which then replicate and make new germ cells, and are effectively immortal.

There's more to this than Reader's Digest essays on living on through your children - germ cells are far, far better at staying alive than their somatic siblings.  Specially designed to convey genetic information to offspring (the entire point of a species), germ cells express enhanced immune abilities and resistance to many genetic stresses which break up regular cells.  And the Harvard team have tricked their somatic cousins into acting the same way.

By modifying the DAF-16 transcription factor the team gifted the millimeter-scale worms with extended lifespans, and if you guessed that there are an insane number of extra effects beyond "one single gene tweak" then congratulations on understanding genetics better than Hollywood does.

Don't worry about overcrowding or hiring Soylent chefs just yet, though.  While the research is applicable to mammalian cells in many ways, the simple fact is that you are your neurons, not your germ cells, and those neural cells are pretty different from the C Elegans model.  It's certainly conceivable that we could adapt neurons the same way (though conceiving isn't something we'll want to do when everyone lives eternally), but unless the Einstein and Feynmann of genetics already exist and are the same person, you're one or two generations too early.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

http://www.harvardscience.harvard.edu/foundations/articles/researchers-learn-how-mutations-extend-life-span

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nature08106.pdf

Related Galaxy posts:

GATTACA's Facebook: The Risks Of Sharing Genetic Information Online

Artificial DNA: Will Controlling the Code of Life Trigger Unintended Consequences?

"Genetic Personalities": Are We One Synthetic-Skin Invention Away from Getting Rid of the Human Species?

Hotwiring the Human Genome

Comments

No surprise. Science Fiction has become reality again.

Who wants to live forever?
What a pain in the arse.

I read that last sentence right at a very dramatic moment in Bach's Toccata & Fugue. What a deep moment.

Who wants to die?
What a pain in the arse.

Please let this happen. I can't stand the thought of dying. Immortality has always been my dream. I just pray I live to see it.

maybe I'm just ignorant, but...

if all cells became highly immune to diseases wouldn't this huge new landscape of high immune cells be an opportunity for diseases to adapt to highly immune cells?

then we'd be back to where we started, and even our previously immune cells would now be susceptible to these new diseases?

Interesting, I'd definitely want to live longer - maybe not forever, but at least for a few hundred years! My life is too short to do all the things I really want to do, but I've gotten good at prioritizing ;)

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YEs mutations do occur which do stop aging but you can still be hurt scarred and otherwise suffer all the normal illnesses with some rather odd exceptions. I suffer from such a mutation but so far noone has been able to find a link to a specific gene I am 45 years old but my body stopped aging phsically some 15 or so yars ago with the not surprising side effect that i heal amazingly fast I have been shot several times and have healed completely in as little as 5 days I was curious if any others have this mutation and if it is possible to pass on this mutation to your kids or to another person.

wow! Immortality is no longer impossible! Give it five to ten more years and Im sure they can immortality a possibility!

Immortality has always been my dream. I just pray I live to see it.

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

can you live forever

Give it five to ten more years and Im sure they can immortality a possibility!

The generic session is totally out of my mind I think I need the guide to understand it.

I no theyr is 3 immortals on earth my self as the 4th. We were average humans at one point. Now i live in scotland and have done for 2.328 yesrs living in the shadows of time and mear mortals watching time go by. humans have now in the last hundred years started to understand genetics, biology. Now wont to join the immortal race. To the people who clame immortality then why have i never met u be 4? i have scowerd the planet and only ever found 3 others like me. Being immortal is not easy i realy should not be speeking about this but the last thing i am going to say that immortals do exist and it can be a hard life.

Guess what goes, we achieved immortality already for mice through cell regeneration =D

http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/29/harvard-scientists-rejuvenate-elderly-mice-laugh-maniacally/#disqus_thread

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

I no theyr is 3 immortals on earth my self as the 4th. We were average humans at one point. Now i live in scotland and have done for 2.328 yesrs living in the shadows of time and mear mortals watching time go by. humans have now in the last hundred years started to understand genetics, biology. Now wont to join the immortal race. To the people who clame immortality then why have i never met u be 4? i have scowerd the planet and only ever found 3 others like me. Being immortal is not easy i realy should not be speeking about this but the last thing i am going to say that immortals do exist and it can be a hard life.

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

i am medical student i have always been inspired with immortality i have always dream of immortal life though perfect immortality is not possible we can live life free of disease and ageing if anyone suggest how to communicate with those involved in immortalit research my simple concept if tree can live so long why cant we

I no theyr is 3 immortals on earth my self as the 4th. We were average humans at one point. Now i live in scotland and have done for 2.328 yesrs living in the shadows of time and mear mortals watching time go by. humans have now in the last hundred years started to understand genetics, biology. Now wont to join the immortal race. To the people who clame immortality then why have i never met u be 4? i have scowerd the planet and only ever found 3 others like me. Being immortal is not easy i realy should not be speeking about this but the last thing i am going to say that immortals do exist and it can be a hard life.

I no theyr is 3 immortals on earth my self as the 4th. We were average humans at one point. Now i live in scotland and have done for 2.328 yesrs living in the shadows of time and mear mortals watching time go by. humans have now in the last hundred years started to understand genetics, biology. Now wont to join the immortal race. To the people who clame immortality then why have i never met u be 4? i have scowerd the planet and only ever found 3 others like me. Being immortal is not easy i realy should not be speeking about this but the last thing i am going to say that immortals do exist and it can be a hard life.

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