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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Keys to Immortality

Freshwater Planarian (Photo by Eduard Sola)
It used to be that when humans searched for the keys to immortality, they looked to the gods for answers.  Nowadays, people are also turning towards God's earthly creatures for such precious clues.

In an article titled "5 animals that may hold the key to immortality," Chris Gayomali of The Week begins with an "ode" to the naked mole rat.  Not exactly a prototype of eternal beauty, this underground rodent with "stretchy skin, wispy hairs, and squinty eyes" doesn't inspire adoring glances.  Nevertheless, its unique RNA makes for a precise "cranking
out" of cellular protein that makes the naked little critter "far less susceptible to age-related diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's."

If you're worried about losing your head in certain situations, taking a cue from the humble flatworm might help.  Gayomali reports that one small but mighty planarian – after not only being decapitated, but also chopped into pieces – was able to regenerate into "an entire colony of more than 20,000" wiggly ones.  Due to the worm's ability to "renew stocks of a key enzyme," it was able to "grow new muscles, skin, guts, and
even brains…"

The Turritopsis dohrnii (aka "the Benjamin Button jellyfish") not only refuses to die when taken captive, but also "appears to grow younger and younger until it reaches its earliest stage of development."  Then it simply "presses the reset button" and begins life all over again.


Copyright October 2, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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