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 Google Calico pt 2

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Demeer Blackthorne
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PostSubject: Google Calico pt 2   Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:14 pm

Self-healing worms and telomeres

In 2012 a group of scientists at Nottingham University discovered that a species of flatworm -- the Planarian worm --can divide 'potentially forever' and thus heal itself. Some researchers hope that the discovery will provide fresh insight into how it may be possible to alleviate aging in human cells.

Dr Aziz Aboobaker from Nottingham University's School of Biology, said: "Usually when stem cells divide -- to heal wounds, or during reproduction or for growth -- they start to show signs of aging. This means that the stem cells are no longer able to divide and so become less able to replace exhausted specialized cells in the tissues of our bodies. Our aging skin is perhaps the most visible example of this effect. Planarian worms and their stem cells are somehow able to avoid the aging process and to keep their cells dividing."

According to researchers looking at the worm, the key may be in understanding the function of telomeres -- the ends of a chromosome that protect cells against degradation.

In 2009 three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on how telomeres protect chromosomes from degradation.

One theory suggests that if we can work out a way to preserve telomeres, then we would be another step closer to defeating aging.

Read: How the search for aliens helps life on Earth

Cloning and body part replacement

Another major area of investigation is looking into organ creation and replacement. Many people die due to organ failure, but imagine if you could just create your own new liver and replace a faulty one?

Scientists have already successfully implanted functioning lab-grown kidneys into rats. If the therapy could be successfully (and affordably) replicated for humans, it could help overcome the significant organ donor shortages that persist in many countries. Early work into creating organs using 3D printers has also yielded promising results.

Nanotechnology

Organ replacement will probably only ever be part of the solution however. Many scientists believe that longevity through repairing the human body requires a broader focus than just replacing individual parts.

Ray Kurzweil, an American author, inventor and futurist argues in his book The Singularity is Near that by the 2020s, nanotechnology may be able to help cure disease. Kurzweil says that deploying tiny robots (or 'nanobots') in the body could help overcome the problems of incorrect DNA replication -- one of the central causes of aging.

de Grey says that nanotechnological research is interesting, but that he believes it is further away from finding a solution to aging than some other treatments: "I pay attention to molecular manufacturing (the discipline that coined the term "nanotechnology" but then effectively had it stolen by the field of nanomaterials), but I think its relevance to medical interventions, whether in aging or otherwise, still seems likely to be further off than the more traditionally biomedical work".

So will Google's new company discover a workable solution to aging and death? Only time will tell.
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