• Question: is it posible that humans could one day invent eternal life

    Asked by davbash to Betul, Bridget, Ceri-Wyn, Maria on 24 Jun 2010 in Categories: . This question was also asked by jodieo.
    • Photo: Bridget Waller

      Bridget Waller answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      I would never rule anything out…it is very hard to predict where science is going! Although it seems unlikely. The idea of people never dying is quite scary…I don’t think it would be as rewarding as people think it would be! Eventually, I think people would want to die, and would not want to live forever. Very deep questions…

    • Photo: Ceri-Wyn Thomas

      Ceri-Wyn Thomas answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      Hey guys. Scientists are currently very interested in extending our lives. More specifically they’re interested in AGING- because so many of us are afraid of getting wrinkly! However, their research focuses on our chromosomes: there are structures at the ends of our chromosomes called telomeres! These protect the DNA in our chromosomes from deterioration! (in other words aging). Over time these end-bits (telomeres) actually shorten and it’s thought that this shortening is the culprit for aging. If scientists can find a way to prevent this shortening or a way to extend the telomere molecule as it gets older then we might be able to delay our aging process! This could certainly extend our lives but could it lead to eternal life? My answer is no. You see when animals evolved sexual reproduction they co-evolved another thing. Programmed cell death. Yes death evolved. Asexually reproducing organisms are effectively immortal (their cells are not programmed to die although they’re still susceptible to external nasties- so they can be killed). Sexually reproducing organisms are SO good at replicating their genes that they run the risk of overpopulating and wiping out their own resources. Programmed cell death (called apoptosis) is a good way of ensuring that once a load of organisms have replicated their genes by reproducing- they die and leave resources available for their offspring. I don’t think we can rewire our genome to remove this blueprint for programmed cell death. Apoptosis is also vital for our own development as embryos! It’s how our fingers form- all the cells in between die leaving our spindly digits behind! It’s all very complex but I think it means that eternal life can never be ours.