How realistic is this scenario?
††† Sad to say, I
donít think itís realistic enough to be on anyoneís agenda but mine. My reason
for optimism is the fact that an egg cell has to be able to completely
refurbish even the most decrepit somatic cell. Otherwise, offspring would be
born old, and species would become unviable, within a few generations. On the
other hand, those who know immensely more about this than I do are seeking much
more modest gains in longevity. They wouldnít restrict themselves this way if
they thought there were even an outside-chance of bringing about what Iím
††† Dr. Michael West (above), CEO of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), calls this ability to rejuvenate an egg cell just after fertilization a ďtime machineĒ, since it has the ability to return a somatic cell to an embryonic state. ACT is hoping to use this technique to clone and regenerate individual body organs. If they saw a way to rejuvenate entire organisms, Iím sure theyíd be aggressively pursuing it*.
††† Of course, you wouldnít be able to implant an adultís body cells in trillions of ova. What you would seek would be the agents within a fertilized ovum that mediate its ďtime travelĒ back to a pristine state, and then hope that it could work its magic in the adult body.
* - On second thought, companies have to produce marketable products and show profits. I suppose itís possible that what Iím describing might involve a massive research program, and might currently be out of reach for Advanced Cell Technology.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† .
††† One current research emphasis is upon the only known way to lengthen maximum life span: caloric restriction. Considerable attention is being given to understanding what agencies other than chronic hunger might bring about the same life-extending effects that caloric restriction produces.
††† In short, if
youíre worried about a sudden revolutionary rejuvenation of all our oldsters,
you can sit back and heave a sigh of relief. It isnít even officially on the
††† I take back what I said above. Itís abundantly clear that no species could survive unless it could copy itself virtually flawlessly. The transmission of age-inflicting defects to offspring would have terminated the propagation of life. The first life form that ever existed would have to have had some means of transmitting an un-aged template of itself to its offspring. Furthermore, it could well be a single gene, common to every living organism, which triggers the cleanup process. Once that cleanup has been completed, the agent or agents responsible are, perhaps, flushed from the cell.
† ††This doesnít mean that such a housecleaning can occur in differentiated somatic cells. Iím only hoping that thatís the case.