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How Engineered Stem Cells May Enable Youthful Immortality

Posted: Fri, March 15, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension



by Teresa Belcher

 The Facts of Life

Let’s begin with the facts of life and remember how an individual human being comes to exist in the first place. The union of a sperm and egg cell leads to a unified cell commonly called a zygote, which then divides into two cells, then four, and so on, until a small cluster of cells form, each of which has the power to become any of the cell types in the human body.

Cells that have this power are said to be pluripotent, meaning they have power (-potent) to become a variety (plurality or pluri-) of cell types. These cells commit to the cell type they will eventually become, that is, each cell will commit to becoming areproductive (sperm or egg) cell, or one of the body’s many life-functioning cell types such as muscle, blood, or brain cells.

This process of cellular commitment is called differentiation.If pluripotent cells differentiate into sperm or egg cells, scientists say they are remaining in the germ-line. The germ-line is that lineage of cells that connects the generations and is the biological basis of the immortality of the species. They are the cells whose continuous proliferation ensures there are always zebras in Africa.

They are the reason why you can go to a local greenhouse and buy fresh young petunias to plant in your garden every spring, year after year. Germ-line cells have the amazing ability to spin off new individuals forever, without the limitations of aging.When pluripotent germ-line cells commit to become one of the life-functioning cell types of the body, we say they have differentiated into somatic cells. This differentiation seals their fate. These somatic cells are now mortal, even though, up to this point, they have been proliferating continuously for billions of years as germ-line cells.

They will now become part of the body that is programmed to die usually within 100 years. Those cells that went the germ-line route have the potential (though not certainty) that they may continue in future generations indefinitely. Because they are not committed to a mortal fate, scientists say the cells are immortal.

The use of this term does not mean that the individual cells are indestructible, nor does it mean anything in a religious sense. Instead, the term simply refers to the lack of commitment to the mortality that occurs when these cells differentiate into somatic (functional) cells that have finite lifespans, sometimes measured in maximum amount of doubling times before they die.For the past few decades, scientists have focused on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of the immortality of germ-line cells in order to find a means of using those insights to restore health to aging somatic (life-sustaining functional) cells.

In other words, we have attempted to find a means to rewind the clock of the “ticking time bomb” in our cells back to the beginning of life.In the past few years, we have learned that, when cells make the decision to become somatic (that is, cells that enable the body to function as opposed to reproductive germ-line cells) they turn off telomerase, an enzyme that synthesizes a repeated sequence of DNA over and over again at the end of DNA strands needed to maintain cellular viability. This region of the chromosomes is called telomeresand we refer to it in this article as the “telomere clock of cellular aging”.Most somatic cells lack sufficient telomerase, and so every time somatic cells proliferate, they progressively shorten their telomeres.

This functions as a clock mechanism not unlike the burning of a fuse. However, in contrast to somatic cells, germ-line cells retain telomere length appropriate for the beginning of life, due to an abundance of telomerase activity.Since there is currently no known way to safely and effectively extend telomere length in the body, our researchers have instead sought means to mimic the natural immortality of germ-line cells in the laboratory dish to make young and healthy cells of all kinds that could potentially be injected into the body.

Using this approach, we might be able to repair tissues afflicted with age-related degenerative diseases. The good news is that this technology is now very much operational in the laboratory and is a focus of intensive research around the world.

REDUCED OMEGA-6 + INCREASED OMEGA-3 = EXTENDED TELOMERE LENGTH

Telomeres are the caps at the ends of chromosomes. Shorter telomeres have been linked with age-related disease and early death.

Although telomeres typically shorten with aging, shortening is not inevitable and telomeres can also lengthen. Telomere length is associated with lifestyle behaviors. for instance, women who are obese or smoke cigarettes suffer greater loss of telomere length, with a corresponding reduction in life span.

As this article was being finalized, a new study was published that measured telomere length in humans given EPA/DHA fish oil supplements. The results showed that reduced plasma levels of omega-6 fats coupled with increased omega-3s resulted in an increase in telomere lengths.

The scientists attributed this telomere length increase to reductions in inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress brought on by higher levels of omega-3s in relationship to pro-inflammatory omega-6s.

Omega-6 fats to avoid include corn, sunflower, and safflower oils, along with arachidonic acid found in red meat and egg yolks. olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fats, should be substituted for omega-6 oils whenever possible. Dietary sources of omega-3s include cold-water fish, walnuts, and flax seed.

In this human study where telomeres were lengthened, scientists used between 1,250 and 2,500 mg of EPA/DHA fish oil daily to boost omega-3 plasma levels in relation to omega-6s.

Life Extension members typically consume 2,400 mg of EPA/DHA daily in their fish oil supplement.

Summary

Very early in the course of human development, a small cluster of cells form, each of which has the power to become any of the cell types in the human body. Cells that have this power are said to be pluripotent, meaning they have power (-potent) to become a variety (plurality or pluri-) of cell types. These cells commit to the cell type they will eventually become, that is, each cell will commit to becoming a reproductive (sperm or egg) cell, or one of the body’s many somatic or life-functioning cell types such as muscle, blood, or brain cells. If pluripotent cells differentiate into sperm or egg cells, they are remaining in the germ-line, that lineage of cells that connects the generations and is the biological basis of the immortality of the species. 

When cells make the decision to become somatic, they turn off telomerase, an enzyme that synthesizes a repeated sequence of DNA over and over again at the end of DNA strands needed to maintain cellular viability.  A recent discovery showed that the use of just a handful of molecules can effectively restore aged somatic cells back to pluripotency. It is possible to utilize these advances to not only revert a cell in the body back to the all-powerful pluripotent stem cell state, but also to activate telomerase and reset the clock of cell aging all the way back to the very beginning of life.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.



Comments:

Thank you so much for this post.  It really gives me some hope.

By Charleen on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:23pm

I appreciate these facts.  I look forward to more information from life extension.

By Cindy on Jun 11, 2013 at 1:58pm


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