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  • Writer's pictureSBE VIT

On Our Way to Immortality!

We Humans have always been finding ways to make ourselves age slower and live a happy, healthy life. There are medicines in the market claiming to make you look younger, age slower lend you longevity but nothing has come close to immortality. This new shocking research by scientists has identified a synergistic cellular pathway for longevity that amplifies life span five-fold in C.elegans, a nematode worm used as a model in aging research. This increase in lifespan is almost equivalent to a human living for as long as 400-500 years.

Now the reason why this nematode is of our interest is because it shares most of its genes with us humans and it has a short lifespan. Again, it is important for us to understand that these pathways are conserved and have been passed down through evolution. This discovery has opened doors to even more effective anti aging therapies. There are two pathways involved both of which have been genetically altered- the Insulin signalling (IIS) and the TOR pathway First the IIS signalling-mutations that affect the activity of the IIS downstream target AGE-1, the C.elegans homologue of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, are also associated with longevity. The signalling is entirely dependent on DAF-16. DAF-2, AGE-1 and DAF-16 constituting the three key components of the IIS pathway. The combination of DAF-16 mediated transcriptional changes cause lifespan extension. There are several other additional transcription factors that also function as co-factors of DAF-16. Second, TOR pathway, which is a mechanistic target of rapamycin or mammalian target of Rapamycin and a serine/threonine kinase that regulates cell growth, proliferation, motility and survival as well as protein synthesis, autophagy and transcription. It’s activated under nutrient- energy sufficient conditions. Hence the TOR activity is thought to mimic nutrient and energy deficit conditions, inhibiting TOR signalling increases the lifespan. PHA-4 a transcription factor plays an important role in lifespan regulation. Hence, manipulation of DAF-2 and RSKS-1 extended the lifesan in C.elegans.

The IIS pathway leads to an increase of 100% of lifespan and the TOR to an increase of 30% , the mutant would be expected to live 130% longer but what was observed was even more shocking, the lifespan increased by 500%. It’s as if it has been amplified. What was supposed to be 1+1=2 is now 1+1=5. So now to develop the most effective anti aging treatment it’s important for us to put these longevity network under a microscope. Now as there isn’t one single gene responsible for this which means there isn’t one treatment but a combination needed just as cancer and HIV to make the treatments even more effective. This discovery could also mean that someone like Chiyo Miyako, the world’s oldest known person could live forever- at least hypothetically. Now this leads to a very crucial question- Is it ethical to do so? Lets us not focus on how this research that is directed at combating the disease that seems to be intrinsically connected to biological ageing. Although being alive is intrinsically valuable, but there is a fundamental difference between the desirability of being alive within the limits of the average life expectancy and the desirability of being alive beyond those limits. What we are dealing with here is a kind of enhancement to which the concept of a “right to” is ill suited and that raises a series of philosophical and ethical question, relating to justice, to the community and to the meaning of life. Everything new has its own plus and minuses. Debates will continue as to whether it is ethical or not, but what we can all hope for is a just world where everyone has these basic rights- Freedom, Equality, Justice, Peace, Education and Dignity.

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