Battling the Hayflick Limit

Fountain of Eternal Life crop.jpg
The Fountain of Eternal Life, Cleveland, symbolizing "Man rising above death, reaching upward to God and toward Peace." By Notwist -  Public Domain

Aging is one of life’s greatest mysteries. The biological aging of human beings, animals and other organisms is taken by most people as the natural course of events. But there are people who look at aging at the level of single cells within an organism (cellular aging).

But we don't think of aging as just physical. It is the accumulation of changes in a human being over time and that includes psychological, and social changes.

Aging is among the greatest known risk factors for most human diseases. Roughly 150,000 people  die each day across the globe and two thirds die from age-related causes.

I recently stumbled upon Calico LLC, an independent research and development biotech company established in 2013 by Google Inc. and Arthur D. Levinson with the goal of combating aging and associated diseases.

Google's Larry Page described Calico as a company focused on "health, wellbeing and longevity."  (The company's name is an acronym for "California Life Company.")

For all our interest and study, the causes of aging are unknown. But there are theories.

There is the damage concept whereby the accumulation of externally induced damage causes biological systems to fail. There is the programmed aging concept, whereby it is internal processes that cause aging.

Calico intends to use advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan, and then devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.

It was back in 1934 that it was discovered that calorie restriction can extend lifespan. Well, it did double lifespan in rats. There are species that have negligible senescence (the condition or process of deterioration with age). There are even some species that seem potentially immortal, such as Hydra.

But what about humans? There are arguably cells with the potential for immortality. Cancer cells which have lost the ability to die such as the HeLa cell line and stem cells and germ cells producing ova and spermatozoa). Potential.

In artificial cloning, adult cells can be rejuvenated back to embryonic status and then used to grow a new tissue or animal without aging.

But normal human cells however die after about 50 cell divisions in laboratory culture. This is the "Hayflick Limit" discovered by Leonard Hayflick in 1961. Prior to Hayflick's discovery, it was believed that vertebrate cells had an unlimited potential to replicate.

Religion presents immortality as one of the promises of God to human beings who follow divine law. A few scientists, futurists, and philosophers have theorized about the immortality of the human body.

Keep in mind that the absence of aging would provide humans with biological immortality. But biological immortality is not invulnerability. We won't be superheroes and can still die by physical trauma through accidents and violence.

I guess we'll need to to investigate mind uploading to solve that issue.

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