Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Secrets of the very old - Looking for the whys of long lives

I found this very interesting article today by Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article starts talking about how a tortoise named "Big Mo" who recently died at the approximate age of 70 years.

The article discusses supercentenarians within the animal community, including: the Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises who have been known to live to 150 and more along with the rough-eye rockfish bowhead whales, and the ocean quahog clams who all have been known to live past 200 years and more.

The article then went on to describe how telomeres may be the key to animal longengivity. "Telomeres are the protein caps at the ends of chromosomes. When cells are grown in the lab, the telomeres shorten each time the cells replicate, eventually becoming so stubby that the cell culture dies off."

However this interesting quote appeared in the article: "I'm a little bit skeptical about the idea that telomeres contribute that much to aging," said Dr. de Magalhaes, given the fact that mice, which live about four years, have longer telomeres than humans. In the laboratory, he added, scientists have been able to create mice with short telomeres and with long telomeres, and "the mice with long telomeres don't have a significant difference in life span."

Obviously researchers are quite divided over with the length of telomeres affect the life span of an organism, or not.

However, what researchers are mostly in agreement with in extending animal lifespans are their ability to protect themselves from tissue damage:
"(The ability) to neutralize normal tissue damage protects the turtles during hibernation and may also lengthen their lives ... And someday, the scientists say, these biological repair capabilities may offer some clues for how to expand human life span."

So perhaps the ability to protect are bodies from harm and giving our bodies whatever they need to heal, are the keys to longevity; and possibly even immortality?

No comments: