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Flatworms Defy Aging Through Cell Division Tricks

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the ail-hail-the-immortal-flatworm dept.

Biotech 106

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from The University of Nottingham have demonstrated how a species of flatworm overcomes the aging process to be potentially immortal. The discovery, published (abstract; full text PDF) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Medical Research Council and may shed light on the possibilities of alleviating aging and age-related characteristics in human cells." After finding the gene for telomerase synthesis in the worms, the researchers were able to observe that the worms "...dramatically increase the activity of this gene when they regenerate, allowing stem cells to maintain their telomeres as they divide to replace missing tissues."

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Trade off (2, Interesting)

funtapaz (1406785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182251)

I wonder what they sacrifice for this? I'm guessing they are highly prone to cancer or something. I'm nature I doubt they live long enough for problems like that to manifest.

Re:Trade off (5, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182279)

The trade off? They're highly prone to being a flatworm.

Re:Trade off (0)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182295)

I want one!

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182303)

There can BE only one!

Re:Trade off (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182323)

There can BE only one!

That could be problematic if flatworms regenerate their heads.

Re:Trade off (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182329)

I hate to get technical, but do worms even have heads?

Re:Trade off (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182339)

I hate to get technical, but do worms even have heads?

Sure. It's the one the shit does not come out of.

Re:Trade off (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182355)

Tell that to a worm when he's recovering from last night's bender.

Re:Trade off (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182431)

That would be all of it.

"Unlike other bilaterians, they have no body cavity, and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restricts them to flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies by diffusion."

Re:Trade off (4, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182505)

I hate to get technical, but do worms even have heads?

Sure. It's the one the shit does not come out of.

And thus they shall never be elected to public office...

Re:Trade off (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184441)

Oh come on, we have plenty of worms in public office, at least in the US.

Re:Trade off (2)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185161)

That sir, is an insult to worms. The next time you put your face on the ground you can expect to be slapped!
OK, maybe it will be more of a damp brushing against your face... and you may not actually notice... but you have been warned!

Re:Trade off (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185063)

Except for the flatworm politicians. They are completely unable to shit as their head and anus are located in the same place. They then literally become full of shit.

Re:Trade off (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39189877)

And thus having become a mobius strip, they can switch sides seamlessly.

Re:Trade off (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185743)

I hate to get technical, but do worms even have heads?

Sure. It's the one the shit does not come out of.

Are you suggesting that conservatives have two heads?

Re:Trade off (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186075)

Are you suggesting that conservatives have two heads?

No, merely their head and ass are co-located

Re:Trade off (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182379)

Didn't you ever dissect a worm in a bio class? Small little brains but they can be found easy enough.

Re:Trade off (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184383)

No, I went to Hebrew school. You don't get to do anything fun like vivisection in Hebrew school.

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184991)

At Hebrew school, we practice circum^^^^^dissecting other kinds of worms.

Re:Trade off (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185253)

Nope. You don't get dis circumcise people either. Can you imagine my disappointment?

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39185641)

No, these are FLATWORMS, not regular worms. They have no blood or heart or stomach. They do have a cluster of nerves on one end that serve as their brain, but you wouldn't find it easy to dissect.

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182367)

Maybe instead of cutting each others heads off, they just continuously eat each other until they return to being the proto-flatworm now neo-flatform with all that experience added up.

Re:Trade off (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182327)

That's what the worm-snarfing Sheriff of Nottingham is still saying now!

Re:Trade off (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182561)

"What has 18 legs, and isn't going anywhere?"

Re:Trade off (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186355)

"What has 18 legs, and isn't going anywhere?"

The Chicago Cubs?

Re:Trade off (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182631)

Ha, but the usual trade off, in making cells immortal, is making to organism much more prone to cancers.

---

Anti-Aging [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Trade off (5, Funny)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182701)

Flatworms are highly prone in general.

Re:Trade off (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185093)

Now that is a flat out lie! I know many who are upstanding citizens!

I get my coat...

Re:Trade off I am immortal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182821)

So if they have to cut each others heads off because in the end the can only be one.I am IMMORTAL!!!!!!

Re:Trade off (5, Informative)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182551)

In humans, telomeres limit cells to ~50 divisions, which is probably related to how DNA replication is only 99.9998% accurate. After that many divisions, the genome is 0.001% different from when it started, which is one error per 10,000 base pairs, or an error in 1/3 of all genes. This is in addition to the slow rate of spontaneous mutations you accumulate over your lifetime.

In general, fatal mutations don't matter, the stem cell will just divide again (or be dead), and cells are specialized so only a small number of genes are relevant. Furthermore, cells work together, so if two nearby cells have different lineages then they have different errors, and can likely compensate for each other. Still, you don't want too many errors in your cell replication control genes (i.e. protooncogenes ==> cancer), nor can cells function well with a tremendous number of errors (i.e. "aging"). Telomeres also help divvy-up the workload among stem cells so the most eager doesn't monopolize the work.

For flatworms, all this likely entails a fast mutation rate. So what if 90% of its offspring die? The one that takes hold in a new host can produce thousands of offspring, and quickly changing their immunologic profile increases the odds of that.

Re:Trade off (3, Interesting)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183721)

Very interesting. I am wondering now how Humans survive for more than 50 generations, since gametes are also fomred by cell division.

Re:Trade off (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184737)

telomerase - it's just restricted to the germ line

Re:Trade off (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39188049)

Which doesn't address the GGP post about mnutation rates.

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39187377)

Reproduction between two partners performs error correction. All humans have on average seven fatal mutations. But since we have two parents, the odds of have two identical fatal mutations at exactly the same place are greatly reduced, providing that population isn't isolated. You started finding all sorts of problems with small isolated communities like fused or deformed bones, missing organs.

Re:Trade off (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39188401)

Miscarriage, I reckon.

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39189611)

If you've got the wrong errors in your DNA, you get eaten by a tiger.

Re:Trade off (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39191069)

Offspring for each generation are subjected to natural selection, which can be thought of as an independent correcting factor in this case. A sperm or egg with detrimental mutations won't ever reach its counterpart. Most people are familiar with how many millions of sperm don't make it, but for eggs each woman has ~400,000 and only ~400 of those activate (the healthiest tend to do so earlier in life). At least 25% of fertilized eggs self-abort in the first trimester. From there, the number of fetuses that go on to reproduce is substantially less than 100%.

Re:Trade off (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184049)

Note that not all flat worms are parasitic, e.g. Planaria sp.

Re:Trade off (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185657)

It's worth adding that even in humans, telomerase (which is produced naturally by cells) can regrow damaged telomeres. The implications and reasons for this are not yet clear, but it's been known since the 1980s at least

Re:Trade off (3, Informative)

tOaOMiB (847361) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186633)

In humans, telomeres limit cells to ~50 divisions, which is probably related to how DNA replication is only 99.9998% accurate. After that many divisions, the genome is 0.001% different from when it started, which is one error per 10,000 base pairs, or an error in 1/3 of all genes. This is in addition to the slow rate of spontaneous mutations you accumulate over your lifetime.

Where did you get your numbers? Human DNA replication (in normal cells with no damage) is 99.99999999% accurate (i.e. about 1 mutation per 10^-10 base pairs). Please do not mod parent informative for this misinformative post!

Re:Trade off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39188027)

In humans, telomeres limit cells to ~50 divisions, which is probably related to how DNA replication is only 99.9998% accurate. After that many divisions, the genome is 0.001% different from when it started, which is one error per 10,000 base pairs, or an error in 1/3 of all genes. This is in addition to the slow rate of spontaneous mutations you accumulate over your lifetime.

 

Misleading. The mutations that you accumulate spontaneously or due to errors in DNA replication are different than those induced by mutation/loss of telomerase. Telomerase specifically protects the ends of chromosomes.

Re:Trade off (2)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39191381)

Sorry, it appears the rate was revised the year I graduated, so I was using older information (1 per 600,000). I will admit that one error per three genes from replication alone did seem too high to me. In vivo error rates seem to be one per 10^9 base pairs [nature.com] . Given that it's a review article, I'd have to do a lot of reading to determine how DNA packing and such affect that rate (or how they measured in vivo rates rather that ideal in vitro).

That rate would only allow for 150 mutations per cell before hitting its telemerase limit (which most do not reach). Given the number of genes, number of cells, and sequence required for cancer to form, this number seems much too low. Thus, the environmental mutation rate must make-up the difference. For what I posted, it's not terribly relevant if the mutation was replication-induced or mutagen-induced, so I essentially conflated them for simplicity. Each organism will have very different rates, so deriving highly accurate numbers isn't necessary for explaining the general concept of the purpose of teleomeres.

Re:Trade off (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186649)

So what's needed is a RAID controller for DNA, that will sample code from several cells and derive the original code, then undo any mutations. Suppose that's within the realm of possibility?

Re:Trade off (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39188033)

If 50 cell divisions created errors in 1/3 of all genes, then life would be doomed before 50 generations pass, since the germs cells also must replicate, at least once per generation. Also, just to clarify, telomerase is not a gene, it is a repeating stretch of DNA that ends the chromsome, like the plastic tip of shoelaces that keeps them from fraying. I have no clue how telomeres could possibly "divvy-up the workload" as the parent says.

Re:Trade off (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182573)

I wonder what they sacrifice for this? I'm guessing they are highly prone to cancer or something.

Cancer most likely: Hayflick limit [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Trade off (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39183171)

I wonder how this would affect naked mole rats; we've never observed cancer in them or been able to give them cancer. Flatworm + mole rat == immortality?

Re:Trade off (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182773)

I believe there have already been very limited tests of telomerase in humans, but one of the big fears is indeed that it will increase the odds of cancer. It'll be interesting to see what happens when (if?) we have cures for most kinds of cancer.

Better memory too (2)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182851)

"I doubt they live long enough for problems like that to manifest."

If you train a flatworm to pass a labyrinth and then cut the flatworm into pieces, each piece will remember the labyrinth!

So, with this memory they don't need to live much longer, piecewise.

They have all the nice tricks up their sleeves. The trade-off may be their looks.

Re:Better memory too (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39188457)

Not only that, but if you feed trained worm to an untrained one, it'll know the labyrinth.

Re:Trade off (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39189933)

Now you are making a common mistake of assuming of intelligent design, you may not actually subscribe to that thought but you are not really following evolutionary theory when you assume that an advantage needs a trade off.

The intelligent design (NOT CREATIONISM) approach assumes that there is a plan or a benefit to every evolutionary change. While evolution is more based on pure random events where a random mutation can either give the life form an advantage where it could have offspring, or it could hinder it. Even if it hinders the chances if they still have offspring then it passes to the next generation. Or if you have a mutation that is superior to the others and you don't have offspring then that mutation will not pass on. But there isn't a trade off going on it is just random chance.

There could be someone who is Smarter then you, Stronger then you, more Attractive, more charisma... Basically Better then you in every way... As insulting as that sounds it is possible. It is not like D&D or Video Games where there is a need to be balanced. Sometimes things have an advantage without a trade off.

Re:Trade off (1)

funtapaz (1406785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39190667)

I'm definitely not one who follows ID. It just seems like there's usually some sort of disadvantage to being "immortal." That disadvantage usually seems to involve cancer because telomerase seems to be useful in the prevention of cancer. I don't know enough to speak beyond that though.

The T-virus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182353)

.. is protean, changing from liquid to airborne to blood transmission, depending on its environment. It is almost impossible to kill. -- Red Queen

Re:The T-virus (2)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182683)

The T-Virus... is protean, changing from liquid to airborne to blood transmission, depending on its environment. It is almost impossible to kill. -- Red Queen

Pretty close [wikipedia.org]

Jurkat cells are an immortalized [wikipedia.org] line of T lymphocyte cells that are used to study a...

Jurkat J6 cells have been found to produce a xenotropic murine leukemia virus (X-MLV) that could potentially affect experimental outcomes and infect lab technicians. This infection may also change the virulence and tropism of the virus by way of phenotypic mixing and/or recombination.

So, only the transmission step to be solved.

Windows 7 Product Key (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182371)

Windows 7 Product Key

Do they keep their contacts? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182399)

A flatworm only has, maybe, a few hundred brain cells, but if they get regenerated are they a "copy", or just "new"?

Re:Do they keep their contacts? (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182697)

A flatworm only has, maybe, a few hundred brain cells, but if they get regenerated are they a "copy", or just "new"?

They are a pirated copy.

Re:Do they keep their contacts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182891)

You wouldn't steal a flatworm

Re:Do they keep their contacts? (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184397)

I would if they played mp3's.

Re:Do they keep their contacts? (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184849)

Yes, but stick with the Chinese flatworms- the Russian ones all have viruses.

Disturbing (5, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182495)

I find it disturbing that my tapeworms will outlive me.

Re:Disturbing (5, Funny)

docilespelunker (1883198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182687)

Remember though, you're drinking and smoking for 2. And where drink's concerned, the little fella's basically swimming around in neat rum. (taking the assumption that you are a pirate and mostly drink rum of course)

Re:Disturbing (2)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183559)

At one point in time ... every living thing will outlive you, think about that.

Where's their TARDIS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182519)

They have regeneration down, now all they need is time travel.

Re:Where's their TARDIS? (1)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184361)

If that were true, then they would still only be able to regenerate 13 times...

Re:Where's their TARDIS? (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184411)

Well, they actually do have TARDISeses, but they're disguised very inventively.

Re:Where's their TARDIS? (1)

oracleofbargth (16602) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185103)

Nah, it's just proof that this species of flatworms originated from Gallifrey. As if asian carp and zebra mussels weren't enough for invasive species, now the time lords are doing it to us too? Sheesh, sterilize your bilges already.

Re:Where's their TARDIS? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185627)

Isn't that a little personal?

Video from the researchers. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182545)

Here is a video from the researchers themselves.
http://www.test-tube.org.uk/videos/pages_aziz_immortal_worms.htm

Re:Video from the researchers. (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187671)

According to the guy, raw sewage dumps directly into the nearby river -- seriously? He says, "There's where a lot of crap comes out of hospital."

Obligatory (1, Funny)

tonique (1176513) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182913)

I, for one, welcome our new flatworm genes carrying overlords.

Re:Obligatory (1)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184419)

Worms are people too you insensitive clod!

Re:Obligatory (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185639)

Worms are people too you insensitive clod!

You're thinking corporations. I understand how you would get them confused, though.

Re:Obligatory (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185823)

Worms are people too you insensitive clod!

Hey! That clod is my home, you insensitive clod! oh, wait...

Immortal...ish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182921)

New Summer Blockbuster!

Tapeworm genes turn the billionaire playboys and super models into immortals, only to be taken down by the Cancer!

Telomerase for all.

Re:Immortal...ish (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 2 years ago | (#39182937)

urg...don't you hate it when you forget to log in when you actually bother to post.....urg...

Re:Immortal...ish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39183055)

fun fact:
When you see the captcha, you ain't logged in.

Also, if you 'accidentally go AC', logging in to take credit is just silly, especially if it's lame.

Re:Immortal...ish (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183177)

Agreed. Lameness has been had.

Re:Immortal...ish (0)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183277)

I mostly hate that fact that when I do forget to login, slashdot will forget everything about where I was and what I was about to do once I do login. Fucking ridiculous. Most of the time I just don't bother...

Re:Immortal...ish (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39183817)

What I hate is how every time I log in, Slashdot takes me to my account setting page. What the hell? Why does it think I wanted to go there? Having to navigate back to the comment I wanted to respond to is just icing on the cake.

Re:Immortal...ish (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184619)

I right-click on the login link, send the login to a new tab, login there, then reload the tab I'm on and delete the tab I logged in on. I actually have a bookmark to the login, so I can right-click on that and do the same, so I don't even lose my place on the page (except that my prefs expand more of the comments). I tried setting up the auto-login thing but it didn't seem to work any more.

Re:Immortal...ish (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185683)

I right-click on the login link, send the login to a new tab, login there, then reload the tab I'm on and delete the tab I logged in on. I actually have a bookmark to the login, so I can right-click on that and do the same, so I don't even lose my place on the page (except that my prefs expand more of the comments). I tried setting up the auto-login thing but it didn't seem to work any more.

There is a lesson here. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but there is a lesson here.....

Hooray! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39182955)

They've found the Flatworm of Youth!

Ah the recipe for eternal youth! (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183033)

for ( i = 1; welcome( our ); ) new Imortal::FlatwormOverlords;

The really interesting part (3, Insightful)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183475)

From the Discussion section of the linked paper:

We find that in the model species S. mediterranea, asexual animals demonstrate the potential to maintain telomere length during regeneration. Sexual animals appear to only lengthen their telomeres through the sexual reproduction process. This finding suggests that asexual individuals will be able to avoid senescence over evolutionary timescales using telomerase, a prerequisite for the formation of an evolutionarily stable fissionating asexual lineage. [. . .] The difference we observe between asexual and sexual animals is surprising, given that sexual animals also appear to have an indefinite regenerative capacity. We conclude that either they would eventually show effects of telomere shortening or that they are able to use another chromosome end-maintenance mechanism not involving telomerase. [emphasis added.]

So both sexual and asexual animals seem to have an indefinite regenerative capacity, but sexual animals appear not to lengthen their telomeres except through the sexual reproduction process. So how do the sexual animals attain their indefinite regenerative capacity, and why does the mechanism seem to be different from that of the asexual animals? I guess the next experiment is to start slicing up sexual animals.

Re:The really interesting part (1)

hardie (716254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183769)

I was interested in this too. Not that I read the actual paper, but why do they think telomerase is the cause of longer life in the asexual worms? Aren't the sexual worms a counterexample?

Re:The really interesting part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184497)

Because there's only so much room on the planet.

Cancer is Nature's protection against immortality and overpopulation, and our guarantee of forward progress with natural selection.

Re:The really interesting part (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184661)

... Which goes right to my Brown Food theory. The BFT explains why we like brown foods - chocolate, grilled meat, tobacco (not exactly food, but it is consumed in a relevant way), all sorts of burnt stuff. All of these cause cancer, which causes us to die earlier, which makes room for the next individual. It's God's version of planned obsolescence! :D

Re:The really interesting part (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186467)

Asimov, a biochemist, whote a short SF story about this very thing: Playboy and the Slime Gods [wikipedia.org] . The wiki article is incomplete, Asimov explained his motivations is reprints in various of his books.

No references to "In Time" yet? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183699)

What, still no references to the film "In Time"?

Re:No references to "In Time" yet? (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39187033)

Or for that matter, Evolution [imdb.com] ?

Doctor Whoß (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39183765)

Timelords are Flatworms?

Corporate masters forever has a new meaning (1)

Ajustator (1310407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39183841)

Now when this will be made available to humans the whole game will change again: Basically the corporate overlords will live forever and they will only have to change the workers generation by generation. This until they will create enough robots to do the job instead of the workers. Then most of the humanity will be kinda obsolete. They will live in closed premises, served by robots, having fun among them. the rest of us will freely participate in madmax

Cancer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39184271)

Isn't cancer's trick also to synthesize telomarase?

Part of a large, confusing body of evidence (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39184421)

It isn't clear at this point if the telomere hypothesis works at a cross-species level. In some species, telomere length is apparently not correlated with aging. In particular, there are some birds which have short telomeres but long lifespans. There's a very good book aimed at laypeople on the science of understanding of aging and the history of attempts- "The Youth Pill" by David Stipp. The only minor disclaimer is that the field is changing so fast that the book is already slightly out of date. But it contains a lot of interesting tidbits and a fair bit of neat history as well. I strongly recommend it.

That and a toupe ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185511)

... and all those flatworm dudes will be picking up hot flatworm babes long into their old age.

advantages to mortality? (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39185515)

I wonder if there could be some advantages to mortality. It just seems it would be easier (take less energy) to keep an existing organism in good repair indefinitely, compared to starting over with a new generation. If so, then lifespans evolved to be deliberately shorter than need be. If a tree can live 5000 years, why not an animal?

Shorter generations allow faster adaptation and evolution. Maybe immortality makes organisms so risk adverse that it becomes detrimental to the survival of the species. More adventurous creatures have more successes, even if half of them die of bad luck. New generations more readily learn new ideas, more easily abandon or never learn old ideas that no longer work. Or perhaps the demands and rigors of living set the odds of living more than a few decades so low that investing in repairs isn't worthwhile.

Useful knowledge (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186083)

I wish I had known this years ago when we were writing and printing The Evil Platy-hell-minthes, Planaria of Destruction comics. Then more megalomanicial rants about the benefits of immortality could have been included and they would have had a good grounding in biology instead of Pullingitoutofmyassology.

Basic intro to the planarian flatworm (2)

nohelix (1244378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39186443)

The planarian has come up several time here on /. and I thought that some people might like a quick intro these guys.

The flatworm used in this study is the planarian S. mediterranea, a free living (i.e. non-parasitic) flatworm. They have a distinct head and tail. They have non-lensed eyes capable of detecting the direction and strength of light allowing them to move away from it. Finally, they have a bi-lobed cephalic ganglia (rudimentary brain) and a rudimentary CNS. A similar species of planarians (dorotocephala) is frequently seen in high school science class.

There are 2 varieties of this species - one reproduces asexually while the other reproduces sexually. Both varieties are capable of complete regeneration (i.e. a full worm from almost any fragment) when cut. In both cases, the only dividing cells in the worms are stem cells called neoblasts.

Fun Fact: Thomas Hunt Morgan did many of the initial experiments on planarians.

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Standard disclaimer: I work in a lab that uses these animal.
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