Could Age-Defying Worms Make Us Immortal?
Scientists have found an flatworm species that can overcome the aging process, potentially becoming immortal by rejuvenating their telomeres. What can humans learn from the process?
What's the Latest Development?
Scientist have discovered a species of flatworm that can overcome the aging process, potentially making it immortal, by rejuvenating the genetic material believed to be at the root of aging. English researchers have found that when the planarian worm reproduces asexually, both the parent and offspring, "regenerate indefinitely by growing new muscles, skin, guts and even entire brains over and over again." Whereas cells typically show signs of aging as an organism grows, the planarian's cells are somehow able to continue dividing.
What's the Big Idea?
The genetic root of the aging process is a 'cap' on stem cell genes called telomeres. During healing, reproductive and growing processes, stem cells divide and the telomere cap gradually shrinks until the cells can no longer reproduce. "Previous work, leading to the award of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, had shown that telomeres could be maintained by the activity of an enzyme called telomerase." The study found that planarian worms do indeed increase the length of their telomeres as they grow and divide.
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