Friday, March 19, 2010

Immortality


I’ve always been fascinated by nature. There is so much that we don’t know but we have been destroying it every minute as we speak. It is just sad….

My interest in nature was grown when I was a kid. Just like most others, I loved watching TV back then, my dad didn’t like us doing that, except watching documentaries which was something he liked, especially those related to nature. Therefore, before I learned the term ‘biology’, I was already exposed to the existence of many kinds of animals. Being a kid, I found animals more attractive than plants, cos animals move! Among them, I was more interested in large predators than their preys. I would think if the predators fight with other, which one will win? Also, I love to learn how animal survive? Like how a polar bear or a tiger can use their fur color to camouflage themselves in hunting, that sort of things. Basically, it was learning of Darwinism without knowing the term. Also, I was curious of the special features of animals, like how a snake can move without legs? How a hummingbird stays in mid air to eat honey from flowers? Etc.

As I grow older, taking biology course in high school was fun; however, memorizing those crazy terms kinda put me off. Afterwards, as there were more interesting things popping up here and there, my interest in nature kinda died down. Every now and then, I would still check out news about nature, such as discovery of a new type of dinosaur, or scientists find lives in some extreme conditions. Those are still interesting to me once in a while.

When I check out Yahoo news today, the following piece of news really, I mean REALLY catch my attention to an extent that I even wanna blog about it. This is the piece:


The world's only immortal animal
By Bryan Nelson, Mother Nature Network

The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.

Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).

The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters. "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network, where a version of this post originally appeared.

Well, I don’t know what other title can top this one in terms of new discovery in nature: “The world's only immortal animal”!!!

Immortality has always been a dream of human beings since we first exist. Emperors in the past, dictators in modern time, the riches and famous have been recorded of their desire to live forever! There were novels, fiction or even real life stories all over human history across cultures about people’s quests or wishes for immortality. The main reason why those stories captured our mind is because many of us do share the same wishes of immortality, we kinda identify with the characters in those stories but certainly have to ‘come down to earth’ to accept the fact nobody can live forever.

There have been many schools of thoughts on how to become immortal, such as by reincarnation, some sort of ‘soul’ transplant, living through machine to extend our life, creating human/robot hybrid to become a cybot, through human cloning, etc. Related to that to some extents, the beauty industry, the health product industry, those anti-aging procedures, plastic surgery, black market organ transplant, etc, all of them are related to the sense that, given we human beings can’t leave forever, at least we would like to stay young as long as we can. Cos, being young are more attractive, energetic and healthier. The flip side of the coin is getting old which means approaching death. On top of the unknown nature of the afterworld and the horrible image of death itself, most people just wanna live longer!

There are two forms of life extension, one is to simply stay alive but still getting old, and the other one is the ultimate dream of being forever young!

With all that said, that’s why the article above is so fascinated to me that this new discovery in nature fundamentally overturns what we know about life, which has always have a beginning aka birth, and an unavoidable end aka death! I don’t know how an old jellyfish would be looked differently than a young jellyfish. But based on this article, this kind of jellyfish can stay forever young!

Some people might say: ‘so what!’¸ it is about jellyfish, what does it do to us? Well, for anyone who does know something about how our human technology develop, many (yes, MANY) of our modern technologies are not only inspired but also assisted by leveraging what our mother nature can offer. For examples, we develop our aviation technology because we saw birds can fly. We imitate birds by creating wings and tried to fly ourselves. Though we failed in that regard, we did succeed in eventually by other means. Our ancestors learned to use silk from the cocoon of silkworm to make clothes. Nowadays, our shark-skin swimming suit was inspired what else? shark skin! Also, with the progress in DNA technology, nanotechnology and human genome project, we are getting deep into biotech development like never before. Today, transgenic animals are generally created by injecting "foreign" genes into the nucleus of animal cells. The researchers stripped an HIV virus of its disease-causing elements and used it to virally infect single-cell embryos of mice with a gene from a jellyfish. When the mice were born, they carried the jellyfish gene in their own genes. Under fluorescent light, all their major tissues and organs—including skin, bones, muscles, lungs, liver, kidney, stomach, brain, and retina—emitted a green glow. Most striking is that the trait became a permanent feature of the mice's genome and was passed along to many of their offspring. Can you imagine what scientist might do next with the gene of this kind of jellyfish and somehow genetically apply that to human?

Certainly, it is not something will happen tomorrow, this year, or even this decade. Similar to human cloning, such contemplating with immortality will definitely ignite moral and legal debate from all sides. Considers the implications of immortality, the debate would certainly be much more complicated and intense than human cloning. As the article suggests, those immortal jellyfish never die, if that happen to many human beings, can our earth resource handle that? If that only be applied to few people, who have the right to do that? At what cost? Would that be reversible? Most religions would oppose it without doubt, cos many of them feed on human beings’ scare or hope in afterlife. By being immortal, will people be less religious? Also, for religious people, by tempting to be like God – being immortal, would we be punished?...just so many different thoughts….

Well, yes, just because we can do it, doesn’t mean that we should! However, scientists by nature are just doing their jobs by proving if something can or cannot be done. I’m sure they will get funding to do this kind of research and nobody can stop them from doing it. All I can stay is that: “Stay tuned for more in future!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.