THE TRANSHUMANISM SCRAPBOOK: TELOMERE EXTENSION IN HUMAN CELLS TURNS ...
Some scientists have long been puzzled about why human beings appear to die so young, i.e., between 70-80 years. And some have opined that if one looks at things, it appears that humanity was designed to live much longer, some offering the figure of 120 years. With the advent of genetics in the latter half of the twentieth century, one objective was to zero in on the gene responsible for "turning us off" and find out if that switch could be modified to turn us off much later. This, of course, has fueled an enormous interest in "life extension" technologies among the transhumanist crowd, using nano-technologies to repair diseased cells on a cell-by-cell basis, and genetic techniques and therapies - already coming on line - to treat diseases, grow new organs from an individual's DNA when old ones wear out, thus avoiding the problems of rejection occurring with current transplant techniques, and, as we've seen in the last year, even the use of 3D printing or additive manufacturing to "print" biological material, up to, and including, synthetic skin.
And now, thanks to Ms. K.M. who shared this one, it appears that we are a step closer to cracking the genetic code for that off switch:
Note two things here:
"'Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,' said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university's Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. 'This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.'
"A paper describing the research was published today in the FASEB Journal. Blau, who also holds the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Professorship, is the senior author. Postdoctoral scholar John Ramunas, PhD, of Stanford shares lead authorship with Eduard Yakubov, PhD, of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
"The researchers used modified messenger RNA to extend the telomeres. RNA carries instructions from genes in the DNA to the cell's protein-making factories. The RNA used in this experiment contained the coding sequence for TERT, the active component of a naturally occurring enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase is expressed by stem cells, including those that give rise to sperm and egg cells, to ensure that the telomeres of these cells stay in tip-top shape for the next generation. Most other types of cells, however, express very low levels of telomerase."
"'We were surprised and pleased that modified TERT mRNA worked, because TERT is highly regulated and must bind to another component of telomerase,' said Ramunas. "Previous attempts to deliver mRNA-encoding TERT caused an immune response against telomerase, which could be deleterious. In contrast, our technique is nonimmunogenic. Existing transient methods of extending telomeres act slowly, whereas our method acts over just a few days to reverse telomere shortening that occurs over more than a decade of normal aging. This suggests that a treatment using our method could be brief and infrequent."(Emphasis added)
Granted, it's not "life extension" just yet, at least not in the sense that the transhumanists are singing about, but it is a step in that direction, and a significant one perhaps. Time will tell, as the new technique begins to be applied in actual medical testing.
And it forces us, once again, to confront the moral and ethical issues, and even a social and political one. Suppose this technology does constitute a step toward life extension in the transhumanist sense. Like all human technologies, it will at first probably only be available to the very rich, because it will probably be more expensive (is life extension covered under Obamacare?). The question posed is thus one I've posed before (all the way back in my first book in the alternative field, in fact, The Giza Death Star): imagine our current insane and psychopathic elites - imagine the American neo-cons, for example - living not a mere 70 or 80 years, but perhaps 150 years, 200 years, to "do what they do", while the rest of us continue to live "normal" human life spans of about 70-90 years. One consequence of such a two-tiered society based on access (or the lack thereof) to such medical technologies has already been outlined in ancient texts, where one sees dimly described a similar situation: an elite of longevity, and a much larger population that is not. Longevity might produce declining birth rates in the population with access to it, even a kind of spiritual decline and malaise that accentuates the already psychopathic behaviors of such elites. As I put it in that book, imagine a Chairman Mao or a Josef Stalin having more than a century to "do what they did" and one gets the idea. When life is longer, in other words, it might paradoxically become much less precious.
Of course, the flip side to this is that it also might become much more precious. Again, as I put it in that book, imagine an Albert Schweitzer or a mother Teresa having a century or more to do what they did. In other words, life extension technologies would seem to end up exacerbating the already inherent moral contradictions of human nature.
But another thought that this prompts is that we may be looking at the public tip of a much larger secret research iceberg, a controlled release of information if you will. And what makes me think this is the uncanny longevity of certain people - people in positions of power and influence - that we already see: David Rockefeller, Zbgnw Brzznsk(oh for some vowels!), the Queen of England, who for her 88 years looks extraordinarily young and fit(of course, longevity seems to run in the female genes of that family. Recall Edward VII's complaint that he had an "eternal" mother, referring to Queen Victoria). Perhaps those elites have already been accessing such technologies. If Ben Rich can offer that in the black research world "they found an error in the equations and can now take ET home," it is equally possible that they might have found "an error in the coding, and now we can live much longer."
See you on the flip side....
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