Saturday, July 16, 2005

Die Another Day...

This is a phrase which certainly has a lot of meaning. If you are counting years left on the planet, think again. You may have to count all over again! Scientists claim to have discovered the gene responsible in the ageing process and also to have successfully reversed the process in fruit fly and mice! ‘Super’ fruit flies that have a doubled and healthy lifespan, mice that regenerate damaged parts of their bodies and maybe soon humans who may live forever...

Using what is called a synthetic catalytic scavenger which is an antioxidant that destroys free radicals that cause ageing, scientists could double the lifespan of nematodes and increase the lifespan of mice. The next step will be humans.The studies came about when they were looking into the causes of a rare condition in children who age unnaturally and die young.

Scientifically ageing happens when cells slow down the process of dividing till they die. A piece of DNA called a telemere when controlled called a halt to the division. The telomere keeps getting shorter after each cell division but also prevents the DNA from fraying each time. But eventually it is too short to help! And the cell dies.

Believe it or not, scientists claim to have reversed the process in the lab by genetically creating an enzyme which can rebuild telomeres. This enzyme is found only in sperm and egg cells. If this can be introduced into cells, it should mean a halt to cell death. The big question is how does one insert genes into a cell?

Time will tell.

No comments: