Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Would you really want to live forever?


Mankind has been searching for the secret to immortality since the beginning of recorded human history. Countless movies have been made over the years with this very thought in mind but recently I saw an interesting article on the internet that really captured my imagination.

A man by the name of Shin Kubota believes that he has actually unlocked the secret to immortality that could allow us to virtually live forever. Professor Kubota works for Kyoto University’s prestigious Seto Marine Biological Laboratory and has been studying jellyfish for the last 35 years. In particular he is interested in the scarlet jellyfish, one of three species that he refers to as “immortal”.

According to the professor these amazing creatures simply don’t die, ever. They have the capacity to rejuvenate and because of this ability they never grow old. That’s right; I said they never grow old. I find this to be absolutely amazing and so does the professor. He feels that if he can discover exactly how it is that these particular species of jellyfish are able to maintain perpetual youthfulness that it might be possible to duplicate the same process in humans.

He tells a story about the time that he found a small scarlet jellyfish that had somehow managed to pierce its body with multiple sharp sticks. After removing the sticks the creature managed to completely heal but more amazing was the fact that there were no signs of injury after the process was complete. No scar tissue, absolutely no indication that the jellyfish had been injured at all!

Studies have revealed that the scarlet jellyfish does in fact completely rejuvenate itself and this is not the same as simply healing from an injury as people and other creatures are capable of. When severely damaged the jellyfish will return to the bottom of the ocean floor and begin to “morph” into a state of infancy such as when it was first born. This “infancy” is known as a polyp and then the polyp becomes what is known as a medusa. In this state the scarlet jellyfish has the inexplicable ability to between the adult and infant stages. In essence it is starting over again, basically being “reborn” without any of the preexisting damage or conditions to its body that existed before!

While the process is not completely understood the implications are astounding. According to the professor jellyfish and humans are not as different genetically as you might think and it is conceivable that if the secret of this amazing ability is discovered that it may be possible to “mimic” the same ability in people. Remember the old saying about cats having 9 lives? Well, professor Kubota was able to make one jellyfish rejuvenate 12 times!

So what do you think of all this? While this type of regeneration could not prevent death from a catastrophic event (such as a car accident or a long walk off a short pier) it could give us the ability to completely recover from any life threatening injury or illness. We could simply “wind back the clock” to a time before we were injured or became ill. No more cancer related deaths; no disease of any kind would ever threaten humanity again. For me the implications are absolutely stunning but one question looms large in my mind, “Would I really want to live forever?”

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