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Keys to longer life, immortality unlocked

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Ageing gracefully… PHOTO CREDIT:http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1591601/images


*Scientists discover new clues on how cancer-resistant naked mole rat appears to defy ageing
*Humans should be able to live forever by 2050 using artificial intelligence, genetic engineering

The incredible survival abilities of the naked mole rat have reached near-legendary status. hairless creatures have long lifespans, are resistant to cancer, and can even survive extended periods of time deprived of oxygen, making them a key target in the ongoing search for the ‘fountain of youth.’And now, scientists may have unlocked one of their secrets.

A new study has identified a unique characteristic behind a cellular process that may allow the rodents to fight both cancer and the effects of aging, despite the two acting like ‘competing interests’ in other animals.A process known as cellular senescence is responsible for preventing damaged cells from dividing out of control, which can lead to cancerous tumours.But, this comes with a price.

As senescence stops cell division, it also accelerates ageing.In the new study, the researchers from the University of Rochester investigated whether naked mole rats exhibit this anticancer mechanism – and, how it may behave differently than in other animals.

“In humans, as in mice, aging and cancer have competing interests,” said Vera Gorbunova, a biology professor at the university.“In order to prevent cancer, you need to stop cells from dividing. However, to prevent aging, you want to keep cells dividing in order to replenish tissues.”“We wanted to look at these animals that pretty much don’t age and see if they also had senescent cells or it they evolved to get rid of cell senescence,” said co-author Andrei Seluanov.

The researchers compared the senescence responses of naked mole rats and mice.While naked mole rats can live upwards of 30 years, mice live only about two to three years. And, to their surprise, the team found that naked mole rats do experience cellular senescence.For these rodents, however, the researchers found the process resulted in higher resistance to the damaging effects by inhibiting the metabolic process of the senescent cells.

“In naked mole rats, senescent cells are better behaved,” Gorbunova says.Indeed, old age could soon be old news, according to a leading futurologist who claims people born after 1970 could live forever.He predicts that by the year 2050, humans could outlive the constraints of the physical body.Genetic engineering could be used to extend the body’s life expectancy, by reducing or reversing the ageing of cells.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) could lead to android bodies for humans to live in after their own flesh and blood frames have ceased to function.And virtual reality worlds could be created for people to upload their consciousness into once their bodies have failed.The claims were made by Dr. Ian Pearson, an engineer and inventor from Ipswich who lectures on the future of our daily lives, according to The Sun UK.

The holy grail for genetic engineering, human immortality, has long been a fascination for many, he said.“There are quite a lot of people interested in living forever,” Dr. Pearson told The Sun. “There always has been, but the difference now is tech is improving so quickly, lots of people believe they can actually do it.”

Pearson said that anyone alive today who survives until 2050 may never have to face death.He added: “By 2050, it will only really be for the rich and famous.“Most people on middle-class incomes and reasonable working-class incomes can probably afford this in the 2060s. So anyone 90 or under by 2060.“If you were born sometime in 1970 onwards, that would make you 48 this year.

“So anybody under 50 has got a good chance of it, and anyone under 40 almost definitely will have access to this.”Why are scientists interested in the naked mole rat? With wrinkly skin and walrus like teeth, naked mole rats are never going to win any beauty contests.Yet these creatures, which live underground in the deserts of east Africa, are one the medical marvels of the natural world.

If a human was to have the same lifespan as a naked mole rat, relative to its size, they would live for up to 600 years.As well as being resistant to cancer, they have very low respiratory and metabolic rates, meaning they use oxygen sparingly.Scientists have put considerable effort into sequencing the creatures’ genome in an attempt to understand its secrets.The machinery that translates their DNA into the functioning molecules in the cells, proteins, have also been found to be highly accurate.

This means their proteins contain few errors compared to other mammals, and meaning their is less chance of something malfunctioning. “When you compare the signals from the mouse versus from the naked mole rat, all the genes in the mouse are a mess.

“In the naked mole rat, everything is more organized. The naked mole rat didn’t get rid of the senescence, but maybe it made it a bit more structured.”According to the researchers, this more structured response may have an important evolutionary role to give these creatures an edge.“We believe there was some strategy during the evolution of naked mole rats that allowed them to have more systematic changes in their genes and have more orchestrated pathways being regulated,” said postdoctoral associate Yang Zhao.

“We believe this is beneficial for longevity and cancer resistance.”Until now, humans have long been fascinated by the idea of immortality and have been pursuing it for centuries.Ancient Greek alchemists once tried to find a ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ to obtain immortality, but were unsuccessful.In recent decades, the average life expectancy in many countries has increased drastically and now most, healthy individuals in the UK can expect a life duration of about 80 years.

With the rapid development of technology and an increasing scientific understanding of the flaws of the human body, some people to believe that immortality is closer now than it has ever been before.In the late 20th Century, an idea called cryonics was founded – the ability to bring someone back to life after death.

Now, futurologists think that humans will be able to live forever thanks to a combination of tech advances. There are now three schools of thought for how people will be able to endure permanently. Scientists have already managed to grow chemicals, tissues and organs in the lab and as technology advances in this field.

Combined with 3D printing and reversing the ageing of cells, our bodies may last longer than ever before. Robots are becoming better and more human-like all the time, and we may be able to upload a human consciousness into an android in the future. Virtual reality and Augmented reality have started to blur the lines between the tangible and the artificial.

Human consciousness could potentially exist completely independently of a body in a computer simulation. The Netflix series Altered Carbon explores similar idea, with people escaping death by storing their mind, consciousness and memories in a computer chip called a ‘stack’ implanted in their spinal column.

This in-tact stack can be taken out of a dead person and implanted into a new body, known as a ‘skin’. A similar process would be involved with the robotic bodies he envisages.The cost of this immortality in a machine will initially be very high, with only the rich being able to afford it in 2050.Soon after, by 2060, it should be more attainable for middle and working-class individuals.

By 2070 people in poor countries on modest incomes will be able to afford it, he says, giving the chance of digital immortality. One final possibility is that consciousness could exist in a completely virtual world. This would open up the possibility of exploring every conceivable fantasy, travelling anywhere in the world at any point in history.He believes humans could also link their consciousness to that of others in a giant hive mind. This could offer humans of the future unlimited intelligence and let them exist in multiple places at once.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online


In this article:
Vera Gorbunova
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