General, Research, Technology

Is it true that humanity is on the path to immortality?

The oldest person who ever lived on Earth,Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, whose dates of birth and death are documented, lived 122 years, 5 months and 14 days. Despite the fact that life expectancy has continued to increase in recent decades, there is a clear line between life expectancy and its quality. It is one thing how many years we will live, and quite another, how many years it costs to live, being in good health and prosperity. Today, many researchers are baffled by the search for answers to the questions of whether human life has natural boundaries that can be exceeded in the future, and if so, what strategies should be used to achieve this goal? The answer, oddly enough, lies in the biology of animal aging in the wild.

Is it possible to defeat aging and is it worth doing?

Long-lived animals

Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) isthe longest-living mammal on Earth. In the genome of this giant cetacean, whose age is a record 211 years, various adaptations have been identified that help to avoid the development of diseases associated with aging, in particular, with the development of cancer.

Something similar happens with the little burrowingrodent - naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber). The lifespan of some individuals can exceed thirty years, which is almost eight times longer than representatives of the mole rat family usually live.

The naked mole rat lives in dry savannas and semi-deserts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. They feed on underground parts of plants, including juicy tubers and bulbs.

Naked mole rats also have complexsocial skills, tolerance to some forms of pain, and tolerance to high CO2 concentrations. In addition, the tissues of these amazing animals contain high concentrations of a variant of hyaluronic acid with an increased molecular weight, which allows the skin to be elastic (which is necessary when wandering underground), and as a side effect, it provides high resistance to cancer and prevents sarcopenia (atrophy and loss muscle mass) with age.

A third example is Brandt's bat (Myotisbrandtii), which, despite its tiny size (weighing 4 to 8 grams), lives for more than forty years. In this case, the secret lies in hibernation, which leads to a low metabolic rate. Moreover, the presence of a mutation in the genetic sequence of growth hormone receptors, which leads to dwarfism and increases lifespan, also plays an important role in the aging biology of these animals.

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Greenland Arctic sharks are the northernmost and coldest of all sharks; widespread in the north Atlantic Ocean

Finally, the longest living vertebrate isGreenland Arctic Shark (Somniosus microcephalus). This species exceeds five meters in length, but grows at a rate of only one centimeter per year. Thus, the life span of larger individuals can exceed five centuries, as suggested by the results of carbon analysis of the lens of the eye of several polar sharks.

Note that various types of invertebrates also have a long life span and do not develop obvious signs of aging. Therefore, their adaptation can serve as an example notjust to live longer, but also to slow down the aging process itself. This refers to the American lobster or the North Atlantic lobster (Homarus americanus), which live for over 100 years. Their continuous growth is associated with high production telomerase - an enzyme responsible for repairing errors in DNA.

Icelandic clam (Arctica islandica) is anotherexample. The most famous specimen is 507 years old. The key to such a long life is the extremely low metabolic rate, as well as the high resistance of their mitochondria to the effects of oxidative stress. In addition, the telomeres (ends) of their chromosomes do not appear to contract with age.

Aging and longevity

Researchers are currently working onvarious tools to slow down and even reverse aging. Among them are genome editing techniques such as CRISPR / Cas9, which can remove unwanted genes. For example, genes responsible for certain cancers or hereditary diseases caused by small mutations, such as cystic fibrosis.

See also: Aging of the body occurs in three stages: at 34, 60 and 78 years

Perhaps in the future we will choose which is better - the acquisition of nanobots or a tattoo.

In the same way, nanotechnology can help us indeveloping cell-scale nanorobots that circulate through the bloodstream, removing nascent atheromas or tumors (by thrombolizing nearby blood vessels). The problem, however, is that even if we can defeat cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes-related diseases, our lives will only last about 15 years. This is due to immunosensitivity, which determines that the majority of deaths in the elderly occur from viral and bacterial infections, which usually do not pose a risk to young people.

Striving for immortality

As the Spanish Muy Interesante writes, based onof the above, the search for strategies for the radical prolongation of human life should go in other directions. One of the possible ways would be to study mechanisms that allow, given the same size and, despite a much higher metabolic rate, flying animals, such as most birds and bats, live much longer than terrestrial ones (other mammals and some flightless birds). What do you think about this? We will wait for the answer here!