Scientists Extend Life of Worms: Human Immortality Next?

June 15, 2009

(ChatttahBox)—A group of Harvard scientists determined to discover the genetic answer to human immortality, just arrived one step closer to their quest for eternal life, a mission that would make Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, proud.

The scientists have already found a way to make certain gene mutations in bio-engineered worms, which not only extends their life, but also makes them resistant to disease.

The mutated super worms, belong to a class of worms called Caenorhabditis Elegans and scientists in genetic research commonly use them, because they are easy to incubate and possess useful genetic material.

The Harvard researchers began their groundbreaking experiments, using the hypothesis that some cells are already immortal, such as germ cells that continually replicate, making new organisms. Germ cells essentially don’t have a pre-determined life span.

Somatic cells on the other hand, eventually decay and die. So, the scientists attempted to “re-engineer” the somatic cells of a worm to behave like germ cells. And they were successful.

Specifically, they modified the DAF-16 transcription factor in the worms’ DNA, resulting in a longer and healthier lifespan. Although, this methodology has a long way to go, before it can be tested on mammals, it has amazing implications for the future of life-extending research.

Humans are quite different from a simple celled worm. We are composed of a series of complicated neurons in addition to simple cells.

But it’s conceivable that someday, scientists can “mutate” our neurons to behave like an immortal organism and when that day comes, we will live in a vastly different world where the concept of old age would be redefined.

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