Is it Unnatural to Live for Centuries? Let’s Ask Nature.

Ask the Greenland Shark about negligible senescence.

Can you imagine having to wait over 150 years to have sex? Welcome to the world of long lived aquatic animals. The Greenland shark may have just broken the previous longevity record for an invertebrate. With a lifespan of an estimated 400 years, this predator reaches its peak of sexual maturity at a whopping 156 years, well above the longevity norm for any animal on land or in the sea. What is it’s secret, you may ask?

The science behind this extreme longevity is as follows:“Cold water helps lengthen the animals’ lives by slowing down their growth and biochemical activity.” Lower metabolic rate may plays a big role. Cold can also activate anti-aging genes that help an animal better fold proteins, get rid of DNA-damaging molecules produced by things like senescent cells, and even fight off infections more effectively, extending life span. The cold-activated molecules “are evolutionarily conserved” across the animal kingdom, and thus these pathways very likely exist in these sharks, too.” *

Other species that nature has seemed to have solved the longevity problem for are: the Bow headed Whale who has a max lifespan of 210 years, the Naked Mole Rat which outlives a normal rat with a max lifespan of 28 years, and then of course the  Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish, “ a species of small, biologically immortal jellyfish found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the waters of Japan. It is one of the few known cases of animals capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary individual.”**

So is extended life unnatural? Scientists are trying to crack the code that would give humans super longevity. Nature has solved the longevity problem in a handful of species, so what about us? One of the things that leads to decrepitude is cellular senescence. Senolytics proves to be the most promising area to help humans live longer. If you are unfamiliar with the term Senolytic, here is a quick definition:

“A senolytic (from the words “senescence” and “lytic” – destroying) is among the class of small molecules under basic research to determine if they can selectively induce death of senescent cells.[1] In basic research, senescence is a potential tumor suppressive mechanism[2] and possible factor that accelerates the aging process.[3] The goal of those working to develop senolytic agents is to delay, prevent, alleviate, or reverse age-related diseases.”***

With powerful senolytic tools such as FOXO4-Dri currently in production, we can attempt to do what nature does and curtail one of the things that makes our system clog up with the molecular garbage of cells that have stopped dividing. When these cells linger and produce toxic chemical signaling to healthy cells the body experiences accelerated aging phenotypes.

The science behind FOXO4-Dri is complex, but simply put  it involves enabling the cell to achieve apoptosis, or in other words the death of senescent cells  that occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development. With Senolytics leading the way, we hope to stop one of the top hallmarks of cellular decay very soon. This is not a silver bullet, but a giant first step for comprehensive therapies to reverse all of the hallmarks of cellular decay.  Eventually we will come up with a multiple therapy approach or “stack” which will treat all of the factors that contribute to cellular decay. With new tech in gene editing and cellular repair on the horizon, the future of human longevity seems to be very promising. We may one day catch the Greenland shark and surpass it’s longevity by centuries, making humans the longest lived species on the planet. When that happens, it will be a glorious day indeed!

-Kelly Martin

*http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/08/greenland-shark-may-live-400-years-smashing-longevity-record

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turritopsis_dohrnii

*** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senolytic

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