In a previous newsletter, I asked the question of why babies are born so young when the cells in their parent’s bodies used to make the babies are most often decades old. The answer was that the germ cells (eggs and sperm) reset biological time to zero at conception. Scientists have now zeroed in on how this reset function works – which will eventually be very good news for us all.
Think about that for a moment. What if my 68-year-old heart could be reset to its operational capacity when I was decades younger? What if your lungs, kidneys, eyes, and especially those creaky joints, could be reset to their youthful vigor? What if a diseased liver – caused by decades of alcohol abuse; or eyes that are out of whack – could be regrown and rejuvenated from within your own body to the youthful highly functional versions that existed in your teenage years?
Science fiction you say? It’s already been done!
For example, lizards and salamanders can lose their tail for many reasons – including predation, and it simply grows back another one.
The crab is then returned to the sea where it quickly uses its inborn organ reset function to grow another claw.
Mother nature was also kind enough to provide humans with an organ reset function – but only for our liver. While we do have other body parts that are constantly growing – such as hair and nails – the liver is the only internal organ in humans that can almost entirely regenerate itself – even when 90% of the liver is removed. Scientists don’t really know why the liver was given this honor, but no one is complaining – especially liver organ donors and their recipients.
Now here is where this topic gets interesting.
When an organ or body part regenerates in humans and other species, the new organ is not the same age as the original organ – it’s entirely new! Now you understand why scientists are so interested in this process. If researchers could turn on this process of regeneration for body parts that mother nature did not grace with this option, then voila, we would be able to replace older and worn out parts of our bodies with younger and more efficient versions of themselves. First use of this technology will most likely enter into the critically important organ transplant space where needy patients would have their own young/fresh/healthy organs grown within or outside of their bodies – eliminating the need for organ donation.
Check out the headline news that came out last week indicating organ regeneration in humans is no longer science fiction:
Scientists rejuvenated the skin of a 53-year-old woman to that of a 23-year-old’s in a groundbreaking experiment.
Here’s a simplified explanation of how it works.
Once conception occurs, as cells in the body begin dividing. Some of those cells become very special – they’re called embryonic stem cells. These special cells begin differentiating soon after conception – which means some cells become skin, others form internal organs, others become brain cells, etc., until enough differentiation and growth occurs to generate an entire living organism.
These researchers set out to transform cells from the skin of a 53 year old woman into embryonic stem cells, with the goal of then finding a way of instructing these cells to differentiate into one particular part of the body – in this case, skin.
They succeeded! The surprise happened when they measured the way in which these skin cells behaved, and to their amazement, these new skin cells that were generated from a 53 year old person, behaved like that of a 23 year old.
Now don’t get too excited just yet, and for the time being anyway, this will have no influence on the life settlement industry. The technique used to rejuvenate the cells increases the risk of cancer, so this discovery is not even close to a prime time health intervention. But these researchers made three critically important discoveries:
- the cells of older people can be transformed into the original stem cells that existed when the person was younger;
- these stem cells can be coaxed to differentiate into other parts of the body, and;
- new parts of the body grown in this way behave as if they are much younger.
Science is not there yet, but this is one of the more exciting discoveries in the fields of cell biology and aging science to come along in quite some time.
All these researchers are doing is what mother nature has already managed to accomplish for a few species – including us; which is to rejuvenate parts of the body.