Have Scientists Finally Found The Fountain of Youth?

In an amazing breakthrough, French researchers were able to restore the youth of cells taken from people aged over 100 years to reprogram them to the stem cells stage. The work published in Genes and Development Journal would suggest that aging is reversible.

Jean-Marc Lemaitre from Fonctionnelle Génomique Institute (INSERM / CNRS / Université de Montpellier) led the study, which could change our entire view of aging. The aged cells were “reprogrammed to be pluripotent stem cells in vitro – IPSC (Induced pluripotent stem cells), which have the youth and characteristics of embryonic stem cells (hESC).”

Juan Ponce de Leon never imagine to look in Montpellier, but I can tell you the people there have always looked fantastic.

One week inventing artificial muscle and now reversing the aging process. If only someone is working on love handles, I will be good to go.

The question is, if we ever were able to reverse aging, would we allowed it or ban it given our growing over-population problems? We just turned the corner of 7 billion people and many believe that we are reaching the tipping point in terms of depletion of resources and disease. The chart below are projections without scientific measures to reverse aging:

Source: Doctor as first seen on Reddit.

33 thoughts on “Have Scientists Finally Found The Fountain of Youth?”

  1. @Bron: <How was that figured out?

    By freezing human brains, and then slicing them thinner than paper, and staining individual neurons with a die that follows the axons and highlights the synapses; and counting them up in representative areas, and then extrapolating that information to the brain as a whole. Many, many times, with a great deal of tedious work by many, many researchers and graduate students.

    The typical human brain has about 100 billion neurons in it, and about 100 trillion synaptic connections.

  2. Tony C,

    “That was my point, indirectly.” (Tony C.) I figured as much but wanted more on the specifics of the indirect point you were making and you obliged. Thanks

    “To be fanciful; a repaired AD patient might remind us of the descriptions of reincarnation; they have scattered memories, emotions and skills from a past life. But for real.” (Tony C) … I wish I were a writer for that idea could be developed into one heck of a story or screen play.

    I always enjoy it when you decide to comment on a thread.

  3. @Gene: what do you think about the idea of replacing that wet-ware with hardware?

    Well, especially for the foreseeable future, that would be a destructive process; the brain would have to be destroyed to find all the connections. And I am doubtful the 100 trillion connections could all be found in time.

    But in principle I think this is possible, and in principle I think neurons can be simulated along with new growth, and the conceptualization, innovations, new memories and everything else would arise naturally from an accurate simulation.

    I don’t believe in the supernatural; I believe the brain is a machine made of cells and molecules and that in principle it can be simulated with information technology. Maybe not with current information technology, and maybe not with our current incomplete understanding of the physics of neurons. For example, there is still speculation about whether quantum effects are an important component in neural tubules or not; and nobody can prove that one way or another.

    But I don’t see anything fundamentally preventing us from understanding the physics of a brain and simulating it.

    What that means philosophically I don’t know; the simulated brain would be certain it was the person whose brain we copied. It would have those memories. If it were Stephen King, it could write a new novel. It would have emotions. It would pass any mental test of humanity a locked-in paraplegic could pass. Does being human require a meat component? Not IMO. About the only line I can imagine drawing is somewhat arbitrary: I (tentatively) think I’d say it has human rights if it is a copy of a real human brain; i.e. the machine brain has to be based on an original meat brain. But that might not be a very workable criteria.

  4. @Bron: Even more, for some. The typical human brain has 100B neurons, with 100T connections, that is an average of 1000 connections per neuron; but the distribution is not the bell-shaped normal curve; instead it looks more like a ski slope; meaning a small percentage of neurons have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of connections, while a large percentage have only a few hundred.

    That makes sense; some words like “fast” have many, many memories and associations attached to the them (literally attached). You rip a bandaid off fast, you drive a car fast, my computer is fast, a horse is fast, Usain Bolt is the fastest sprinter alive, we have fast learners, fast women, fast balls, fasting monks and fasteners to hold things fast. Not to mention all your memories that included the word or concept of “fast.”

    So “fast” is general enough to need a really big network. On the other hand, some neurons are very specific, and they may connect and trigger to a big network, but themselves are not very densely connected at all.

  5. Tony,

    I agree with your take about mind-transference in movies from a scientific standpoint. The nature of the wet-ware doesn’t make this feasible. I’m not going to address the whole “soul” issue. I’m talking about the brain as a mechanical process. However, what do you think about the idea of replacing that wet-ware with hardware? Since a machine can indeed provide a truly blank slate on which to copy a pattern, could a “cyber-brain” allow for personality and memory transference? If it could, could it be engineered in such as way as to retain the neural characteristics that allow for the formation of new memory and conceptualizing in the same way a natural brain does? Or would the new cyber-brain essentially be a copy that cannot grow in the same manner as a human brain? But the issue then becomes, if this is possible, what rights does a copy have? Is it under the dominion of the biological original? What if a “good” copy is used to replace a later damaged original? Does it subsume it’s original biological brain’s standing as a member of society?

    It’s an interesting subject.

    Immortality inherently would cause sociological and economic problems. Personally, I think this would be the case whether it’s biologically or technological based immortality. The biggest difference would be how the problems would manifest and to what degree.

  6. Tony C:

    that was a very interesting post. are there really 20,000 connections for a particular concept? How was that figured out?

  7. @Blouise: how would this impact on dementia in all it’s various forms

    That was my point, indirectly. Neurons are cells, but unlike skin cells or liver cells or heart cells, where they all look pretty much the same, every neuron is different, and the differences are what make us who we are. The 20,000 connections you have in your brain to the word “warm” are there because a neuron has been growing through your brain like the roots of a tree, to touch other neurons or be touched by other neurons.

    If neurons get into trouble I can’t just slather some pluripotent cells on your brain and get back that same pattern somehow, I can’t “trace and replace” the neuron(s) critical to your associations with “warm” built up over a lifetime of experience and usage of the word.

    Your liver or your heart or your lungs are kind of dumb meat machines, and those cells (or whole organs) can be replaced. They do not define you as uniquely “Blouise.” Your brain does, and specifically the trillion unique synpatic connections built up by your unique experiences that are impossible to untangle.

    You know all those movies where a personality is transferred into another body somehow, a clone or whatever? It can’t happen, they all rely on the falsehood that who you are is somehow separate from your brain; that all brains are alike so another brain can host your personality, like a computer running another program. But they cannot, a brain is not a multipurpose computing device that can be given new sofware or a new operating system. The only way to transfer your personality is to replicate those trillion connections.

    As far as I know AD plaque kills neurons. So new cells, if injected, would have to re-learn and re-grow to make new connections (if the old cells could be cleaned out) and the result won’t necessarily be the same as the neurons that died. It might work, and make a new person, slightly different from the previous person. After all, most of the experiences that survive AD might still be present. But from the scans I have seen of advanced AD, quite a bit of the person has been lost, and I don’t think new cells would bring it back.

    To be fanciful; a repaired AD patient might remind us of the descriptions of reincarnation; they have scattered memories, emotions and skills from a past life. But for real.

  8. We’ll just mark the double posting down to your youthful exuberance and endless teen energy, raff.

  9. raff,

    Honey … think about all you’ve learned … I suspect you might thoroughly enjoy another puberty. 😉

  10. Tony,

    Speaking of the brain … how would this impact on dementia in all it’s various forms including AD? (Am I taking your point?)

  11. Can we use this technology to rejuvenate my knees and lower back? The rest of me is fine.

  12. This completely changes the health care debate. The notion of boomers breaking the bank turns into the notion of where are we going to put their kids and grandkids?

    The State therefore has zero interest in longevity. Watch it be severely restricted to the elite to begin with, but this cannot last.

    We’ll a be beautiful, starving, and smashed together like sardines. At least we’ll be beautiful.

  13. Gee I really hope this works – because what we really need, more than anything else is for the uber-wealthy that can afford this hanging around even longer. There are not enough people on Earth currently and a break through like this can help us cope with that problem.

  14. I did not read the research, but I doubt that included telomere regeneration for the DNA; and that is one of the critical components of aging. The telomeres are protective end-caps at the end of the chromosomes, they are gradually degraded by cell-division due to incomplete copying, and when enough telomerase is worn off, the cell stops dividing, and may disintegrate (apoptosis). An accumulation of dead and dormant cells are thought by some to be the main effect of aging (they can also contribute to cancers). The maintenance functions that would normally replace such cells are also dependent upon cell-division, so the aged end up with everything faltering at once: Organs need maintenance, but the maintenance crew is sick, the immune system is weakened for the same reason, and sooner or later something breaks.

    Putting aged cells into a pluripotent state in a lab dish is a neat feat, but it is a far cry from doing it in vivo (in place in a living person).

    Pluripotent means it can develop into any kind of cell; but it is questionable whether we want to turn an aged skin cell into an aged liver cell! Even if we can turn an aged skin cell into a young liver cell, the main thrust of such research is to grow replacement organs down the road; as backups for failed organs.

    What we cannot backup, of course, is the brain, or the unique way in which neurons have organized to make you you. So we might get the body working again, but eventually the neurons start failing too, and I am doubtful the solution to that is near at hand.

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