Who wants to live forever?

So asked Freddie Mercury. So also concerned God when he banished our forebears from the Garden of Eden. As the good book says in Genesis 3:, ‘Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever ” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

So it eventually became established in our culture that our human life on earth was limited to three score and a few more. This is the way of things on earth. Unimaginable that it would be any other way.

Yes if you subscribe to the Jewish/Christian faith or the Muslim faith from the same region then you believe that the soul is eternal and, for the faithful, the body and soul will be reunited in heaven. If you subscribe to the Indian Hindu faith then you believe in reincarnation of the soul into various life forms on earth until you reach nirvana and escape the physical world to be a perfect, eternal soul.

But from the sci-fi days of the mid 20th century, humans began to dream that anything would be possible by the 21st century. Doors that magically open by themselves as you approach (tick); space-craft (tick); pills to replace food (potentially a tick) and the ultimate, the ability to rejuvenate our human body in perpetuity. Drink from the fountain of youth. At the first sign of erectile dysfunction or bum and boob sag, off you go to a clinic to be hooked up to electrodes and just dial back the years.

So what a surprise then, back in the 1990’s when scientists discovered a humble life species on earth that can actually live forever. Or at least biologically can live forever as long as it’s not eaten by a predator. It is a

Turritopsis-nutricula; photo credit : Peter Schuchert

Turritopsis-nutricula; photo credit : P. Schucher

5cm long jellyfish,  the Turritopsis- nutrucula. It was first discovered in 1883 in the warm sea of the Mediterranean and also found living happily and potentially eternally in the Caribbean. But back in the mid 1990’s scientists studied this little marine creature and actually discovered it’s power of immortality. When immortal jellyfish become sexually mature, the male releases his sperms into a column of water. The sperm come in contact with eggs that are present in the stomach of the female jellyfish. During the embryonic stage of the jellyfish lifecycle they are either settled onto the mouth or the oral arms of the female. After they have passed this stage, they transform into free swimming planulae and separate themselves from the body of their mother. They float along the surface of the water for a few days and then settle on a hard, stationary object like the surface of a rock.

At this stage, they become transformed into polyps. These polyps continue to feed on microscopic plankton and the polyp then begins to grow multiple identical polyps until it becomes a colony. All the polyps are connected with minute feeding tubes and they receive equal nourishment from their microscopic diet. The colony of polyp can remain in this stage for years at a time. When the condition is right, this colony of polyp begins to grow horizontal grooves. The groove at the top is the fastest to mature, and will soon free itself and become a free swimming jelly fish.

This process of reproduction is common to most species of jellyfish. But what is unique about the immortal jellyfish is that after reproducing sexually, they are able to return to their polyp stage. The “original study of the species, published in 1996, records that if a sexually mature Turritopsis is injured, starving or under some other natural threat, it attaches itself to a nice warm surface and converts into a blob. From that blob state its cells undergo ‘transdifferentiation’, that is its cells simply transfer to become different types of cells. Back to polyp stage. Immortality is possible in our natural world on earth.

It raises a big question, if they are immortal then why are the oceans not absolutely clogged up with these creatures? Well, that’s when you have to read the fine print. Only the sexually mature jellyfish can revert back to polyp stage, and most of the deaths of these little creatures occur at the immature polyp stage of their lives usually as a mid morning snack for a sea slug. 

I can see I have lost you now as you calculate the pointlessness of finding the secret to eternal youth if in fact you are highly likely to die or be eaten by a sea slug during the born again process. But stay with me because you are missing the point.

Still here? Good, then I will explain the point. All life is fundamentally just bunches of cells getting together. Humans are nothing but something like an average of a trillion cells for every kilogram of weight (not counting bacterial cells of course which are ten times that number). Little 5cm jellyfish would be lucky to have a billion cells. Quite a tiny sample really, but the point is, if a billion cells can sort out a reversal back through the life cycle, then surely it is simple multiplication of the same principle to get 70 or 80 trillion cells to do the same thing. Cells are cells, life is life. Nature already has the secret to eternal life, so all we need is a civilised system to protect ourselves during the rebirth process and we effectively are as immortal as God and his angels. Just as Yahweh feared might happen back in the Garden.

Have I jumped a few trillion steps too far? Well explain the Anita Moorjani story to me. She was riddled with the deadly Hodgkin’s lymphatic cancer, had been for four years with tumours right through her torso. Finally, with all her organs going into total shutdown, she fell into a coma from which the medical staff telling the family she could not possibly recover. She would certainly die that night. But she survived the night and recovered rapidly; when they could first do a biopsy there was absolutely no sign of any cancer. The cells right through her upper body had reversed the process, reset her system and eight years later she is touring the world as a guest speaker at all sorts of events. The doctors simply could not explain it so had to just admit that and move on with their chemotherapy-based careers.

Again one case in the tens of millions of cases over the last ten years, but if it can happen once then there is a case study to confirm the possibility of cellular self healing. And if they can self-heal, why not revert us back to our youth. No doubt the scientists who study cellular behaviour are studying the immortal jellyfish.

But what if they succeed in working out how to encourage our cells to revert backwards to newborn status? Sounds good? But on second thought, there ain’t enough room on this planet for all of us. With this global population doubling over the last 50 years from 4 to 8 billion, we are already too many and are exhausting earth’s resources, fouling its waters and polluting it’s atmosphere. Introduce immortality and there will be 20 billion of us here for the next Rugby World Cup. And about forty percent of you will be looking after the other 60% percent of we juveniles. Is that really going to work?

Maybe now we understand why God threw us out of the garden of Eden. You want immortality???? you can’t handle immortality!!!!

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: