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Immortality in science

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Alexis Carrel

Alexis_Carrel_02The Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1912, Alexis Carrel, managed to keep alive an in vitro chicken heart during a period in which the estimates vary, according to sources, from 28 years to 37 years. However, the typical lifespan of a chicken is 5 years. This experience led him to wonder whether the longevity of an organism was really limited by that of its components or whether to look for another cause, internal process of mortality.

Jean Rostand

Denis_BuicanBiologist Jean Rostand (1894-1977) said in an interview that “we do not know if the man is a flower or a chair” and this explains about provocative chair is potentially eternal, since it is treated with care and repaired regularly. Flower, on the contrary, already carries the program of its own destruction. In both cases, men can expect to discover one day physical immortality: an interview is usually simply a matter of technique and discipline; a program, it can probably be altered at the gene level. For Rostand, “The most urgent is to see more clearly in order to know which of the two directions work.”

On the evening of his life, Rostand tell convinced that “if we had dedicated to research in biology all the money spent on military budgets of all countries, the question of immortality or at least eternal youth was already set “.

Hayflick limit

In 1961, biologist  Leonard Hayflick discovers that certain specialized cells seem to divide about 50 times in succession. Better: if they divide 30 times, they are then allowed to stand for a high time, a resumption of the reproductions limited to 20 successive divisions: these cells seem to have some sort of account internal timer. Peers give him the name of Hayflick limit. It was later discovered that this limit is due to incomplete replication of the DNA strand ends (telomeres). However, this reproduction is complete regarding the sex cells. These telomerase-inhibiting agents are discovered. However, making immortal cells, care must be taken not to make cancer cells. Furthermore there is the problem of processing all the cells of a living organism.

Étienne-Émile Baulieu and DHEA

Specialist steroid hormones, it is known worldwide for the development in 1981 of the anti-progesterone RU 486, or abortion pill.

But it is also known in 1963 for his work on DHEA secreted by the adrenal glands, and highlighted some of its properties, particularly in relation to some aspects of secondary aging (skin improvement, increased bone density and libido in postmenopausal women).

DHEA is an androgen which is renowned for its anti-aging effects. The effectiveness of DHEA remains controversial. It was established mostly through animal studies or studies compared with placebo (including DHEAge study). DHEA is currently no prescription in France, the French health authorities (AFSSAPS) has decided to continue its assessment before giving its authorization on the market. However, it is possible to obtain it by prescription or over the Internet in countries like the United States (without guarantee of purity) where it is marketed since the 1990s as a simple dietary supplement.

Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey_de_GreyThe SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (2002)) project aims to radical extension of human life expectancy (and youth) through medical procedures created to counter malfunctions of the body.

For example, the  ambitious and innovative sub-project WILT plans to block the telomere repair in the body by preventing the synthesis of telomerase (to make it impossible for cancer) while periodically repopulating the body with healthy stem cells (telomeres of these stem cells is intact, the Hayflick limit is no longer a problem).

Professor Skulachev

In September 2010, Professor Vladimir Skulachev, University of Moscow (Russia), announced he stopped aging in mice using an anti-oxidant penetrating throughout the body and harmless to his vital organs. Oxygen is normally converted into water by life processes, but a small percentage turns into dangerous free radicals to DNA and they are the ones that this pill is supposed to stop. The 1999 Nobel Prize Günter Blobel confirms the seriousness of this discovery.

This claim is in line with a similar one in a British laboratory a few months earlier, in the early 1990s, the announcement of the beneficial effects of DHEA by Professor Beaulieu. It was, however, only announcement, and a few years will be needed to confirm or refute their effectiveness on the one hand, and their actual safety and their possible generalization to the general public on the other.

Regenerative medicine

In a completely opposite approach to organ transplantation, regenerative medicine seeks to use stem cells to regenerate organs in situ ideally in a perfect state of freshness. Progress in this direction have been rewarded with a Nobel Prize in medicine Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon in 2012.

Professor Christopher Jaeger

Professor Jaeger, geriatrician physician specialized in human longevity, presented at TEDx Montpellier in 2013 a summarizing of the state of the art on aging, prevention, and non-cancer cell immortality, named “We are not made to die.” He also explores the family societal and international, aspects of stopping or slowing aging.

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