The Holy Grail: A Scientific Way to End the Process of Ageing

You never die of old age, you simply die because as you age your body can no longer maintain itself and so one of your fundamental systems brake down such as your immune system, your heart or your brain. So, how can we prevent this. Well, here is my solution:

Your DNA is stored in chromosomes and chromosomes are held together by little bits on the end called telomeres. Telomeres are kind of like the little hard bit on the end of your shoelace. Each time your cells divide, these telomeres get a little smaller until the cell can no longer divide or its chromosomes will fall apart. This means that eventually your cells cannot divide and become senescent or “zombie cells” that don’t die and hinder your bodies ability to function. As you get older these cells build up and you age.

An image of an X chromosome with telomeres on the end highlighted in yellow

So how can we stop this? Easy, animals such as the naked mole rat (an animal which looked like a mole combined with a buck toothed hairless cat) have an enzyme (a tiny molecular machine) called telomerase which replenishes telomeres. This means that the naked mole rat never ages. So we genetically engineer our cells to produce telomerase. That isn’t a joke, it is pretty easy, we could do it today!

The naked mole rat in all its glory

However there is one tiny problem. If your cells are constantly dividing then it will be far more likely that you will get cancer. “Wait” I hear you saying, “how come the naked mole rat doesn’t get cancer you say” well it just so happens to have a tumour suppressant called HMW-HA. So we just put that in ourselves and done, two birds with one stone, no more cancer and no more ageing. Now I know you’re expecting me to say this won’t work but the truth is that I don’t know, I haven’t yet found an answer to this question so yes, maybe it just might. So any geneticists involved in longevity please give me my answer in the comments below.

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