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Steps to Biological Immortality

December 4th, 2017 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
I'm not going to hide it.  I want to live forever.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that or that it's "unnatural" or "unethical."  People often act offended on this topic.  "Why are you so greedy? Why so selfish?" But to them, I ask, why is it so bad to want to live? To who do I owe such a huge debt to that I am obligated to die?

One of my personal beliefs is that it is within our lifespans that we will figure out how to prolong our lives indefinitely - aka biological immortality.  Note this is different from actual immortality where you can't die at all; here we are just referring to dying of age.

At the same time, I don't believe there's such thing as a "natural death."  It is not necessary to die, and not all things do, even in nature.  Jellyfish and lobsters are both good examples, where their bodies never really deteriorate no matter how old they get.  Some will get technical and say that lobsters die of getting too large or their shell becoming too much to molt, but that's besides the point, which is that they don't actually lose vitality or youth over time like we do.  Their actual cells do not decay, and they don't become weaker or less able over time (in fact, they continuously get larger and stronger).  That to me is the goal and the definition of biological immortality.

Other arguments tend to be circular.  That if things lived forever, we'd run out of resource (why would our body care about that?).  Or that you can't live forever because your bodily functions start to fail (isn't that just the definition of dying by age?).  None of these really explain *why* we have to die over time.  They just describe that we do.

As always, these are just my personal notes and observations; they are not to be cited or taken as actual research, especially given as I have no formal education in this area.  A lot of it may very well be borderline or straight up pseudo-science.

The Process of Aging

For me, the main hypotheses to the body aging and eventually dying are:
1. The body is pre-programmed to only live long enough until reproduction happens.
2. The body is designed to allow DNA mutations in cell replication for the chance of improvement.  However, bad mutations to DNA also accumulate over time, leading to cancer, and cells eventually stop replicating properly and start dying off to prevent this from spreading.

The first is a somewhat pre-programmed death.  The phrase that sticks to mind for me is:

"Life under harsh conditions evolves towards immortality.  Life in comfort evolves towards reproduction."

It may sound cliche and probably has been shared around more than once, but it's something that's always been the lens around how I've viewed the topic.  Put simply, it means that if you're pushed to the brink of survival, your body changes to live as long as it can.  If there are no dangers and everything is comfortable, your body shifts towards more or less accepting death so the kids can live on instead.  That's not at all to say you can't have both, just that there seems to be a trigger in the body that sets it towards one path or the other.  The question here would be is if we can somehow communicate to the body that we still want to be in top shape even if there are no dangers on the horizon.  The easiest way for now would be to stay active rather than live a sheltered life, which is pretty common sense.  But that alone won't get you living forever.

The second is more consequential and one I'll be focusing more on.  From what I understand, the actual degradation as we get older - or senescence, which is the formal term - reflects our cells eventually winding down and ceasing to replicate properly because damage to DNA accumulates over time.  This has the benefit of stopping the replication of cancer cells, or bad mutations accumulated from all the cell replication over our lives, but it also stops our cells in general from replicating properly, which is what we see as "aging."

Our body has defenses against DNA damage, so it doesn't have to come to this.  The telomorase enzyme repairs DNA protective telomere caps on the DNA which keep shortening, and the NAD+ enzyme repairs the DNA itself as a second defense if the caps are depleted.  However, for some reason, the enzymes stop being produced after adult life, which leads to our telomere caps shortening until our DNA then starts accumulating the damage (and cell replication failing and us aging).  This probably ties into hypothesis #1 of the body surviving just long enough to reproduce before shutting down, but we know this doesn't have to be this way because lobsters never stop producing enzymes to repair their DNA and telomeres (in fact, their telomere caps keep getting longer).  It's also already been shown that the NAD+ enzyme reverses aging in mice.

So to keep the cells replicating at full capacity and prevent aging, we need to maintain telomorase enzymes to repair the telomere caps and the NAD+ enzyme to repair the DNA.  Doing so, though, has the obvious consequence of also allowing the cancer cells to live forever (what the eventual dying off was supposed to prevent), but again, we just have to look to nature to see that this does not have to always be the case.  Mole rats and elephants, for example, rarely have cancer.  Theoretically, then, we can have our cake and eat it too by finding a way to prevent cancer in the first place.

The main reason our genes even allow mutations in the first place is to leave open the chance gaining a beneficial one (aka evolution), but this also leaves open the chance of bad mutations, which after building up over a lifetime lead to cancer.  The question here would be is if we can somehow communicate to our body that we are happy with our current gene set and don't want to "evolve" anymore.  That is - keep replicating but don't allow mutations or variations.  It sounds bizarre, but again, some animals already do this.  Octopus DNA, for example, is stunted.  Their DNA doesn't change or evolve much at all.  Instead, they have rapid RNA editing to evolve on the fly in a single lifespan.  If we want to be a bit more ambitious, the question becomes, how can we convince the body to evolve itself instead of the species?

The Steps to Biological Immortality

In short summary, the steps to achieving biological immortality would be:

1. Prevent DNA deterioration to stop aging by replacing telomorase and NAD+ enzymes lost in adulthood.  Telomorase enzymes are needed for telomere cap repair and NAD+ for DNA repair if first defense fails.  There are natural ways to preserve telomere length, such as by taking vitamin a, b, c, and e.  You can also increase telomorase enzyme production by taking vitamin d.  See Prevent Telomere Shortening.  Some firms like Bioviva and Telocyte are already trying to inject these telomorase and NAD+ directly into our bodies.  Elysium already has pills out in the market to increase NAD+ in your systems.  The best solution would be is if we can figure out how to tell our bodies not to shut off the production of telomorase and NAD+ enzymes in the first place.

2. Counter the cancer cells which also become more enduring from lack of DNA deterioration.  Preventing aging also helps cancer cells, so the research of both anti-aging and cancer treatment go hand in hand.  You wouldn't want one without the other.

3. Convince the body to stop evolving and prevent cancer altogether. In other words, freeze DNA editing.  Perhaps shift to RNA editing for evolution of the individual instead of the species, if we want to have it all.

Right now, it seems we are only at step 1, although there is obviously work being done in all three (the other two in fields of cancer and gene therapy).  The big idea behind the whole thing is that we need a way to communicate to the body it is at the desired state and no longer needs to evolve at risk of cancer or dying.  That'll probably come a lot later, as most effort right now is going reacting to and countering what the body does (such as replenishing NAD+ the body stops producing).
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Responses

  1. Aaron said,
    Dec-05-2017, 12:25pm

    One reason I'm working so hard to become extremely wealthy is so I can capitalize on longevity options as they become available. Imagine there's a breakthrough: a process that rejuvenates a 80-year-old human body to be biologically like a 20-year-old body.  But at first, it costs (say) $20 million per person.  That price falls to $2 million after a decade, then to $100k a decade later. *IF* an individual can survive long enough to afford even that. Change the #'s any way you like; same idea.

    There'd be advantages to waiting if one can (give time for some of the kinks to be worked out, etc.) But it would be terrible to watch a loved one die of old age, knowing it's truly avoidable at that point. I want to be sure myself and everyone close to me is able to partake, when it becomes an option.

  2. saizo said,
    Nov-08-2018, 09:56am

    All these problems had been solved and people that followed a certain lifestyle had a great lifespan with perfect health, something common among people with certain knowledge in ancient China. The last registered immortal died lately, in 1933; Li Ching-Yuen was his name.

    What modern medical science is trying to do, has already been done thousands of years ago. It was said in different words, had a non selfish end and it didn't require vasts amounts of money to achieve it. It's our ego and capitalistic point of view that push us to re-invent the wheel.

    The issue here is that we, as western civilization people, try to understand instead of being. We are not capable of an honest discipline that would provide us with longevity and finally immortality as a side effect of sticking to it. Our mind set is programmed to search for rewards. We prefer easy and comfortable solutions which finally mean imminent death.

    Finally, after thousands of years and a bunch of planets depleted and if we survive on the meanwhile, we will come up with that pill too. No doubt about it.

    If you really look for immortality NOW practice Traditional Chinese Medicine, TAO sexual techniques, Qi Gong, Zen meditation and live according to a natural way of  life.

    What we know of the past seems like magic we don't understand and as a result, don't believe as possible. Nevertheless, we throw ourselves easily to science fiction as a more credible way to pursue our goals while we stay put in the sofa making money.

    Since the end is the same, I think that we should implement what we already know from ancient times and give it the technological boost provided by scientists.

    To live the way we want to live.

    Forever

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