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Thread: Is biological immortality forseeable within the century?

  1. #1 Is biological immortality forseeable within the century? 
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    Hello biology forum.... new poster.

    So I was just pondering how things are going to work out with this whole golden age of biology and scientific explosion. Assuming the 3 causes of death are physical trauma, disease, and organ degradation, would it not be possible to stay alive forever? Physical trauma will always be a small danger, but for the wary it is negligible, and with advances in emergency medical technology (microchips in clothing, hypersaline ice baths) this factor will probably be extremely minimal in developed countries. Diseases are by and large avoidable for a cautious person who maintains a healthy lifestyle, and cures for the most common threatening diseases (cancer, etc.) seem to be well within our grasp. Technology to grow a person's custom-tailored organs has already been developed and is being refined for mainstream use. Will the wealthy of today live for thousands of years?


    "Impossible is just a word people use to make themselves feel better after they've given up."
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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    Biggest problem is the brain. And it is still impossible to rejuvenate it.


    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

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  4. #3  
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    Yeah, it is plausible.
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  5. #4  
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    I hope not; it would quickly degenerate into the immortals saying to the newborns, "We need a little less of you, since there's just enough of me."
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  6. #5  
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    Is it possible that in the near future we will have the technology and ability to prevent people from dying? Yes, highly likely.

    Is it a good thing? I don't think so. Everything has a downside to it, immortality included.
    Always minimize the variables.

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  7. #6  
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    Immortality, maybe not in our lifetime. But...

    In terms of exciting research in lengthening lifespan, I would highly recommend reading up on the SIRT pathway. It has long been known that long-term starvation (calorific restriction) greatly improves lifespan in the C. Elegans worm and mice. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it works in humans too, but a study will take a long time to show an effect here.

    Starvation activates the SIRT pathway in worms, which basically puts the body in a sort of 'stasis' mode. These starved worms live far longer than their fed counterparts.

    Interstingly, a potent activator of SIRT is resveratrol - found in the highest concentration in red wine. Many suggest that this could explain the French Paradox: the French eat loads of red meat but have far fewer heart attacks than other countries. Unfortunately, lab studies suggest that the amount of wine that would need to be drank to sufficiently bind and activate SIRT would be enough to kill you from alcohol poisoning many times over!

    How does SIRT improve lifespan? This is one of the hottest areas of research in biology. But SIRT greatly reduces risks of heart attack, strokes, diabetes (studies suggest that lab altered more potent forms of resveratrol might actually reverse diabetes!), cancer, alzheimers and aging. It is, quite literally, a wonder drug.

    The pathway was discovered, and the potent resveratrol like compound patented and discovered by the founder and CEO of Sirtrix (more info can be found there), who I was fortunate enough to have lunch with last year(!) He sold the company recently for not far off a $billion, so this medicine is big stuff! The drugs are going through Phase IIb trials - so don't expect anything for at least 5 years yet...
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  8. #7 Genetic Immortality 
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    Even with all the advances in other areas there are still genetic issues with immortality which havent been solved yet.

    Damaged cells in the body are continually dieing and being replaced by new ones. The genome of a cell has within its code a limited number of times it can divide. For biological immortality to be possible it would be necessary to find this coding and reverse the effect on cell division.

    There has been some research done into this based on telomeres limiting cell division. Interestingly cancer cells don't have this problem so could in the future provide the answer to genetic based immortallity.

    Just a thought: If this was solved then 'possibly' we wouldnt need new organs as they would be repaired automaticly when they wore out or got damaged??
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  9. #8 Re: Genetic Immortality 
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    Quote Originally Posted by DashDT
    Even with all the advances in other areas there are still genetic issues with immortality which havent been solved yet.

    Damaged cells in the body are continually dieing and being replaced by new ones. The genome of a cell has within its code a limited number of times it can divide. For biological immortality to be possible it would be necessary to find this coding and reverse the effect on cell division.

    There has been some research done into this based on telomeres limiting cell division. Interestingly cancer cells don't have this problem so could in the future provide the answer to genetic based immortallity.

    Just a thought: If this was solved then 'possibly' we wouldnt need new organs as they would be repaired automaticly when they wore out or got damaged??
    This is a good point Dash. In actual fact, we have pretty good understanding already on how telomerase lengthens telomeres and allows unlimited cell divisions. And as you point out, telomerase is constitutively expressed in cancer cells.

    The latest lecture I saw on ageing though suggests that there is a trend away from ageing being related primarily by telomeres shorting, and it's moving more towards DNA damage and cancer. We need to stop the build up of mutations. For that, better targeted anti-cancer therapies seem key.

    Also, remember that the majority of centinarians are sufferers of Alzheimers. Sooner or later, the A-beta peptide starts killing those brain cells...

    So many hurdles...
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  10. #9  
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    You think it would ever be possible to convert the information contained in a person's brain to data? Or start manufacturing microprocessors that emulate brain functions, and replace the brain one piece at a time until there's nothing left of the original? Granted that it probably wouldn't happen in this century.

    If it worked, I'd love to see what religious people had to say about it. Would they allow the digitized person to still have a soul? Or would they insist that they were dead?
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    You think it would ever be possible to convert the information contained in a person's brain to data? Or start manufacturing microprocessors that emulate brain functions, and replace the brain one piece at a time until there's nothing left of the original? Granted that it probably wouldn't happen in this century.

    If it worked, I'd love to see what religious people had to say about it. Would they allow the digitized person to still have a soul? Or would they insist that they were dead?
    Different religious people would think differently about it. I'm a Catholic and an Aristotelian. The latter philosophy isn't a religion, but it does give certain answers regarding the human spirit that lie outside the domain of the specialized sciences.

    In general, I'd expect the only thing that could be transferred would be knowledge of particulars (since particulars, like computers, have quantitative extension). Immaterial knowledge, such as the knowledge of, say, "thingness" in general, which has no quantitative extension, would be incompatible with either a computer or a brain. Likewise, from both a Catholic and an Aristotelian perspective, knowledge of particulars resides in the sense-memory, which we now know to be housed in the brain. In this context, the spirit would retain no memory of particular things. E.g., it would know what a circle is in general, but would be unable to remember, imagine (since imagination is extended), nor learn about any particular circle.

    Should I be proven wrong by actual success in creating a intellectual machine, I will promptly abandon these points, and try to reformulate my first principles based upon the new information. That said, I do think there are rational arguments to be made for why such a thing will almost certainly not occur.
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  12. #11 Conciousness 
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    Nicely put kojax. humans are made up of more than just a clever computer. if we were to create a synthetic human it does not mean that it would be conscious of its existence; and as a result would not be truely human.

    Of course this is clearly just speculation and not measureable science
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  13. #12  
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    One more problem.

    Lets say we DO make a person "immortal"

    And then 1000 years passes...

    Wont that person die from the nature of the world itself, from bacteria and whatnot - because the organism hasnt adapted itself since that time?

    Or will the organism continue to adapt and build immune systems to the changing world even though the natural aging process has been stopped?
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  14. #13 the population might die 
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    I suppose if the body doesn't adapt it would be like having HIV. I think we need to sort out our population issues first though. If we had immortality then there would be an increasing percentage of elderly people as well as a stop to death rates. If no one died then we would fill up the earth. We can make laws but there would always be people breaking them and i doubt too many would be willing to die if there was a way out.
    just wondering
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