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openpit is a brand new science and technology blog dedicated to bringing you the latest research, news and theories.

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openpit team

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Hello World!

Hello to everyone behind a computer screen!

Welcome to the OpenPit Blog. OpenPit strives for pursuit of scientific knowledge to help all of mankind in the present and future.  OpenPit is currently run by two undergraduate students with different areas of expertise and interests in the science field.

We hope to provide intriguing and ground breaking coverage of new breakthroughs in science and technology for all those curious minds out there.  If anyone out there has a desire to help or any ideas that they want to contribute we are all open ears. Do not hesitate!

–OpenPit team

Immortality?

 

The red ends show regions of telomeres in a chromosome (structure in the cell nucleus containing DNA, histone & nonhistone proteins)

The red ends show regions of telomeres in a chromosome (structure in the cell nucleus containing DNA, histone & nonhistone proteins)

Our deepest rooted fears finally to end?

 

No aspect of the world has dumbfounded humanity like the idea of death.   Humans have been afraid yet also intrigued with the idea of mortality since the days we lived in caves.  Throughout human history, the idea of immortality has been explored. The Greeks dreamed of the Gorgons, Tolkien gave us the elves

Could the mystery of immorality finally be revealed?

Recently, three American scientists won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on the ‘immortality enzyme’ known as telomerase which extends telomeres. Telomeres are small strands of DNA found at the end of each chromosome that protect and prevent harm to the DNA contained within.   Every time cells replicate a small portion of the telomere is lost.  After a certain amount of replication the telomere becomes so short that it prevents the DNA information of the chromosome to replicate and cells begin to degrade and eventually die.

Could preventing telomere shortening really hold the secret to aging?

Population studies which have been conducted show that older people on average have shorter telomeres than those in younger populations but does such evidence prove the importance of telomere length in longevity?  If the loss of telomeres can be replaced with each subsequent replication, theoretically cell division could occur infinitely and no signs of age will be present.  However, infinite cell division is a property that is also witnessed in cancer.  Furthermore, the studies showed that not every individual has a decreasing telomere length with age.  In about 1/3 people, the telomere length actually remained stable or increased as they become older. Though the significance of this finding is yet to be known,  some scientists believe that these individuals have an incredible anti-aging mechanism whilst others believe this is an early indicator of cancer.

In fact the activity of telomerase has linked both longevity and cancer together in the sense that there seems to be a trade off between the two. We know that for telomeres to become longer, telomerase is needed to provide tiny DNA repeating units which replace those that have been lost.  As we age, telomerase’s become deactivated in the body and cell reproduction is no longer possible.  Cells which do not die are those which can replicate indefinitely such as cancer cells.  Cancer cells will continue to divide endlessly and must have active telomerases. Is it then possible to treat cancer by deactivating these telomerase enzymes?  Is it possible to prevent aging but activating the telomerase enzyme? If scientists were to activate the telomerase enzyme everywhere in the body of older humans, cell replication could once again take place but at the risk of cancer. Perhaps scientists should target telomerase activation at specific parts of the body where cell regeneration will be prove to benign and not malignant like in cancer.

–openpit