A tweet from @ranajune caught my eye last night. Rana posted about a story written by Bryan Nelson discussing the world’s only immortal animal: a type of jellyfish. According to Bryan, “The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.”
Modern researchers believe that one day, humans will live to be around 500 years old. While I’m not so convinced of that fact, I do think the discovery that something can live forever is pretty cool. So how is this even possible? The key lies in a process that is called trans-differentiation. This is where a type of cell is transformed into another type. Some animals can undergo limited types of trans-differentiation, regenerating body parts or organs. This is true of salamanders who tend to regrow limbs. This jellyfish, though, can regeneration its entire body over and over again! Scientists are busy studying the jelly to try and figure out how it is able to completely reverse the aging process.
Can you imagine the impact on humanity if there is something about the process that can be used for humans? Cosmetic surgeons will be going out of business faster than your Botox can wear off. Since these jellyfish don’t die, the number of them is spiking dramatically. They’re now found in oceans all over the world instead of just in their native Caribbean waters. If there were some way to apply their regeneration to humanity, can you even grasp how many people we’d have trying to live together on the Earth within a short period of time?
Perhaps I’m reaching a bit in thinking that there could be a correlation to humans. However, just weeks ago we thought that nothing can live forever. Now that we know something can indeed live eternally, why is it wrong to stretch our imaginations to more species – including humans?