It has always been one of the inevitable truths of life. As time progresses, and we age, our bodies begin to deteriorate, and as a result our time on Earth is limited. Mortality is not merely confined by our ability to not take injury or suffer from disease, but also from the length of time our cells have been multiplying. But the exact reasons behind why our cells age has never been fully explained… until now. Imagine a world where we remain at our peak physical age indefinitely. Impossible? Scientists have just taken a major stride toward making that world a reality.
Though scientists are reticent to offer an eternal fountain of youth just yet, they are saying the discovery will undoubtedly bring us closer to treating age related illnesses, and possibly even help treat diseases such as diabetes, and the leading cause of death worldwide: heart disease. The complex study, implementing advanced computer modeling and employing researchers from both Newcastle University and the University of Ulm, used genetically modified mice and cell cultures that resulted in an extended life span for the mice without the expected levels of cellular deterioration. To put it simply, mice remained young even as their counterparts in the control group grew old and died with time.
The research has concluded that the aging process is primarily caused by signals that the cell sets off after naturally occurring damage to cells sets in, the cells are signaled not to continue dividing, or are told shut down. As a result, cells with damaged DNA stop replicating generally, to keep the cells from continuing to replicate incorrectly. Should cells continue to replicate for some reason despite the damaged DNA, they are prone to becoming cancerous, which in itself is sometimes dangerous or even lethal.
The conclusions of the study lead many to believe that while a fountain of eternal youth could be possible, it’s not likely to develop any time in the near future unless hurdles in cancer treatment are first made. Of course given the complicated nature of cellular deterioration, experts are saying there will be no shortage of questions to arise from this discovery.
A world where there is no limit to age may be a hopeful prospect, but if the death rate dropped so drastically there would be a shock to the infrastructure. Aside from obvious overpopulation concerns, there would likely be a significant cultural change. There would also, however, be several advantages. Great minds that come once in a generation could be spared and continue to improve the quality of life for all mankind years after they would have previously stopped making incredible discoveries. Imagine if any number of incredible discoverers throughout history had been given the luxury of immortality. How much further along in our technological development would we be? There’s no limit to the amount of impact eternal youth would have on our society. But with the benefits come potential drawbacks as well, as overpopulation might result in major problems with infrastructure with time.