As wide as the nail on your pinky finger when fully grown, what turritopsis dohrnii lacks in size, it makes up for in longevity. This tiny pink jellyfish, found floating throughout the oceans of the world has an advantage that humans have been hunting for throughout time. Turritopsis dohrnii can live forever.
Like the rest of us, it is born, it matures, it grows old; but once tired of the wear and tear of old age, it can transdifferentiate its cells, transforming them into new kinds of cells and returning them to their youthful state. Biologically immortal, this little invertebrate is able to become young again as often as it wants. Sound great, right?
Well, as much as we might dread the symptoms of growing old, new advances in technology and medical research mean that our potential lifespan is growing. With that has come a series of ethical questions and dilemmas; plus, the all important ‘do we really want to live forever?’.
The UN estimates that by 2050 the number of humans living to over 100 will rise to over three million The heads of global companies such as Google, PayPal and Oracle have paid hundreds of millions towards curing old age and on-the-edge scientists like Aubrey de Grey are receiving more funding than ever before to investigate ‘radical life extension’. The thinking is that the more sophisticated our understanding of how and why we age is, the longer we will be able to extend life.
For any company working on life extension, the aim is not so much to extend life indefinitely, but to repair the body better and extend healthy lifespans. Considered to be much like the process of replacing parts in a classic car – the idea is that by repair and replacement we can keep going for longer.
Stem cell therapies have, thus far, produced the most promising advances. Already being trialed in people with spinal cord damage – if this technology could be used to repair damaged hearts and brains it could extend the lives of millions.
While improving healthcare and treatment of diseases can only be seen as a good thing, there are dilemmas thrown up if the technology were to become widespread. If technology was developed that allowed people to regenerate their body endlessly, how would this sit with less developed countries, where children without access to expensive treatments might still die at a young age? And if our country had millions of hot-stepping centenarians competing on the job market and occupying much of the housing – what could it mean for our infrastructure?
Perhaps luckily for us, radical life extension will not likely be an option available to us in our lifetime and so the associated trials and tribulations will be for greater minds than ours to deliberate over. In the days of Barbarella the future looked more like being cryogenically frozen. Today, the future looks more like we’ll be taking some tips from the immortal jellyfish.
We might not be able to offer you the immortal jellyfish treatment just yet, but if you’re looking to maintain and improve your health, visit the WellMan Clinic, a specialist men’s health clinic in central London. Fill out our Contact Form, here.