Scientists at Harvard Medical Institution have discovered a way to not only stop aging in mice, but actually turn their old and worn out organs into new and rejuvenated ones with a simple drug administered by a syringe. Will the new miracle drug also be able to add years or even centuries to human existence? Or will this youth in a needle drug turn out to be nothing but a pain?
The incredible experiment centered around the basic fundamentals of aging. As cells divide, the ends of each strand of DNA has a barrier on it known as a telomere. As cells divide throughout the natural course of life, eventually these telomeres become shorter. As the telomeres eventually deteriorate – so does the human body’s ability to divide healthy cells with no reduced structural quality. When the telomeres get too short, the body starts to break down. We know this process as aging.
So Ronald DePinho dared to ask the question, “What if this process could be stopped entirely?” After genetically engineering a new type of mouse to be born without the ability to produce Telomares, they aged rapidly and the deterioration of their cells killed them. But then afterward, the doctor began injections of the enzyme through a syringe and this brought back the cellular deterioration that had previously happened just as though the aging was a wound that needed to be healed. If this technology were somehow applied to human cells in a way that worked effectively, it could mean future generations could be genetically modified to never age or die from age related diseases.
Of course such drastic genetic modification would not only be extremely difficult, but would raise several ethical questions as well. Is it right to genetically modify your own children if you know they will never age or die? What if the decision meant they would depend forever on injections in order to sustain their youth or risk dying? And what effect would such a process have on the rest of the population down the genetic line?
Imagine attempting to explain age and dying to someone who will likely live for centuries and quite possibly never have to deal with concepts such as aging themselves. How different would our society look?
Of course in addition to the negative aspects of such a possibility, there are numerous potential benefits as well. Unfortunately, long before these potential drawbacks are fully understood there is a real possibility that the urgency of such genetic development could require it to be implemented long before the potential long term dangers could be understood.
Take into consideration the use of an irreversible medical system in the case of a great thinker whose expertise is needed to progress humanity, for example.
Of course the dependency on regular injections could eventually be removed from the equation entirely. And by extending life, scientists could ensure those seeking the answers would be around for when the technology reached this level of development.