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No. 92: Mar-Apr 1994

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Is immortality only a mutation away?

Here follows the lead sentence of the abstract of a recent letter to Nature :

"We have found that mutations in the gene daf-2 can cause fertile, active adult Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodites to live more than twice as long as wild type."

(Kenyon, Cynthia, et al; "A C. elegans Mutant That Lives Twice as Long as Wild Type," Nature, 366:461, 1993.)

Comment. C. elegans is a roundworm only about a millimeter long. Roughly a thousand cells make up its tiny body, and scientists have charted the birth and death of each cell from egg to adult. This roundworm's life is a mosaic of changing cells, as some die to make way for new cells with different agendas. Somehow this programmed sequence of cell death and birth can be slowed down by mutations and thus increase longevity.

Wouldn't any mortal speculate that perhaps human longevity might, like that of C. elegans, be extended by modern gene manipulators? Sure, it's quite an extrapolation from roundworm to human, but our cells are programmed just like those of C. elegans. Change a gene here and there, and we might all live as long as Noah!

From Science Frontiers #92, MAR-APR 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987