Jellyfish Evolves Immortality
Researchers have documented the first immortal animal, a jellyfish species called Turritopsis nutricula. The species has been seen to reverse its aging and revert to its its earlier polyp stage, periodically restarting its lifecycle. The rejuvenation relies on transdifferation, the transformation of one mature (non-stem, or “differentiated”) cell type into another. All evidence suggests that Turritopsis can repeat this process indefinitely, meaning that it will never die as a consequence of aging, ever. Researchers suggested that studying the Turritopsis could lead to breakthroughs in reversing the human aging process.
“Senescence” is the scientific term for aging, and the cellular degradation that accompanies it. Most biologists attribute senescence in humans and other animals to “telomeres”, which are tiny caps on the ends of each chromosome. Telomeres protect DNA from being corrupted, but during every repetition of the cell cycle, they become incrementally shorter. Eventually the telomeres become so short that cells cannot divide at all, a point known as the Hayflick Limit.
The term “negligible senescence” describes organisms that do not show signs of age related degradation, and includes animals such as the sturgeon, lobster and giant tortoise.
With the goal of emulating such natural longevity, English transhumanist Aubrey De Grey founded the S.E.N.S, or “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence” in 2002 to research medical strategies for elongating the human lifespan. You may be able to guess that they haven’t quite got it down yet.
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