Saturday, August 27, 2005

Highlander, mutants, and popsicle sticks - Reversing the aging process

Throughout the ages, society has dreamed of immortality and more particularly the reversal or at the very least the delaying of the aging process. There have been many books and movies on the subject and science has explored it ad nauseam with limited to no success. Sure there have been products which hide the process but none that truly slow it down or reverse it.

Science seems to have finally made a breakthrough, and it proves that "There can be only one," with no children

The Highlander movies and TV series promoted the concept of immortal sterility to deal with the controversial subject of immortals fathering children throughout the ages. We have been fascinated by these movies and concepts and have discussed their ramifications in forums both public and private. There are many negative points to an immortal society and even to a single immortal living amongst us. Immortal sterility seems like a good work around at least from a fictional point of view but if you look at the latest discovery, it may have been right on the money.

There is as protein that was recently discovered which extends the life of male rodents by 31 percent and females by 20 percent (sorry girls) if produced in large quantities. It was named after the Greek goddess Klotho to reflect the nature of fate and the thread of life which she was said to control. Klotho commands the production of insulin which controls blood sugar and when produced in large quantities it produced the life extending effect.

What does this have to do with immortal sterility you ask? Well, as it turns out, there are some negative side effects to extending life in this manner, one of which is the disappearance of reproductive instincts. Longer life in this particular case equals no desire for sex and therefore no offspring. Another negative aspect of a higher level Klotho is the higher risk of developing diabetes due to the insulin levels affected by the protein. Though the discovery is a great advance, it still has a long way to go in our never-ending search for immortality or at the very least an extra twenty years of youth.

"There can be only one," sucker born every minute

Cryonics, the "science" of freezing people has existed since the 1960s and has been successful in freezing living organisms. It has become a lucrative business which promises to bring people back from the dead when their particular disease can be cured or their aging reversed. There are a number of issues with this procedure, some technical, some biological, some moral, and some just plain stupid, but as P.T. Barnum is credited as saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." Still, bioengineers believe that by the year 2040, they might be able to construct nanorobots that could restore cells and rejuvenate the body, though it is still debatable whether the brain survives the process and the ten percent degradation that occurs during the thawing process could be reversed before it kills you (again).

This particular branch of science is not without its own number of folklore and urban legends, one of which includes Walt Disney's existence in cryostasis, but legends aside, it continues to be a fascinating subject despite the ridiculousness of its present day promises and the unending questions which surface on all aspects of science, philosophy, spirituality, etc.

In the end, does being in a freezer equate immortality? I think not.

"There can be only one," mutant

Applied genetics on the other hand seem a more practical way looking towards the future, particularly when you consider you don't have to die to become immortal and sex is still a healthy part of your life.

Through stem cell injections and genetic manipulations, this branch of science promises to turn us into the equivalent of Marvel Comic's X-men, a bunch of mutants that look like Hugh Jackman. Well, not quite, but certainly resistant to viruses, diseases, radiation, excessive toxicity and even aging and possibly death. Some of the steps in that direction can already be seen in birth manipulation and though the Human Genome Project is a bit of a disappointment in regards to the actual percent revealed (20), it will certainly aid the goal of improving the healthy duration of our lives if not through the extension of youth.

This particular branch has been at the forefront of debate in recent years and seems to be the one drawing out the most scorn from moralists, christian conservatives and even presidents including Mr. Little Tree himself. Scientists believe in logical and empirical evidence that points to evolution and the natural mutation that made us humans, so for them it would seem logical to use our given talents to help the process along for our benefit.

Despite the controversy and the popularity of fictional stories with names like "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" which place humans and the Earth at the center of a universe created in six days, applied genetics seems poised at the forefront of our immortality. Whether we end up as X-men, Highlanders, Androids, or popsicle sticks, the time will come when aging has aged. I for one can't wait.
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Planteichon said...

Holi poser figure! I have not siin somthin like the devil laik you are seing. The american govermen don not want to do experimen becos they are evil experiment and saince have to be made in other contry.

IvO said...

Truth be told, I don't know if I would like to live forever. I still have hope that when I die I will reunite with my deceased loved ones, including and especially being my mother.

Nice still of Wolfman... Grrrrr!

Franco Esteve said...

Actually, it's Wolverine not the Wolfman but close enough. Holi poser figure, not quite, but close enough as well.

I find the subject of aging very interesting, since it can take so many points of view and reach so many areas including the scientific and technological, spiritual, moral, psychological, etc. It's a subject that can even say a lot about a person's belief structure.

As to living forever, I think that in the end, the true goal should not necessarily be immortality as such, but to achieve a much higher quality of life and health for the years that we're here. It's great to say that one wishes to live a hundred years or more when one is healthy and young, but if you're all beaten up and wasting away, your wish is to be done for the day.

Here's a thought: You are immortal and you can serve the complete 600 year jail sentence for that triple homocide you were innocent of but didn't have enough evidence in your favor to be acquitted of.

NPB said...

I think I want to look younger now, so... I wouldnt mind to get inyected with those stem cells. But... would the 15 year olds feel attracted to me? Wait, I better not get inyected, its enough with the 20 and 30 year olds. Goin back to the teens, not a good idea.

I am kidding. I loved this article. Very interesting. Oh... and about Walt Disney being frozen, that is not true. Some person checked all the cryo... whatever labs, and none of them had Walt Disney. He found out he was burried. I remember seeing this on TV (Discovery Channel) or something like that.

Franco Esteve said...

I wouldn't want to be a teenager again either. It was awesome to be sure, but I've enjoyed myself waaayyy more post 18.

The Disney thing I already knew about but continues to be a pervasive urban legend in the field of cryonics. There's another that says Dali is frozen as well. In truth that's a big whatever, Elvis is alive and so is Jim Morrison. ;).

The truth of the matter is that although cryonics might eventually come up with some breakthroughs, particularly with the thawing degeneration problem, so far (and I don't see this changing anytime soon) it is nothing but an ΓΌber expensive cementery. None of the clients complain of course...they're dead.

Franco Esteve said...

Oh, and btw, I'm glad you liked the article :). Thanks.

NPB said...

Oh I read the whole link on the Walt Disney urban legend. I dont know why I read it, but I got hooked. It was way too long.