Ageing as an evolutionary force.

french at RUST.ZSO.DEC.COM french at RUST.ZSO.DEC.COM
Wed Apr 15 15:37:26 EST 1992


> The question has been raised that if the cells in the germ lines
> of living organisms have the capability to keep DNA nearly perfectly
> intact under attack from free radicals why then is it that the cells
> all over the organism are not able to protect themselves in this same manner.

There is no fundamental reason why DNA can't be maintained in an essentialy 
error free condition for an arbitrarily long period of time.  DNA is an
information storage media and information can be error corrected to an
arbitrary precision.  All that's required is an appropriate error-correction
mechanism and redundant information sources (either encoded within a strand
of DNA or contained in separate strands).

Whether or not such an error-correction mechanism exists in nature is debateable.
I believe that it exists and that it is part of the reproduction
process.  Furthermore,
if nature wasn't kind enough to design one for us then - with sufficient knowledge,
tools, and ingenuity - we'll be able to design one ourselves.

A fundamental difficulty with the foutain of youth is that it won't work to just 
freeze the state of our DNA in its embryonic form (unles you would like to
remain an embryo forever).  First we must allow our cells to differentiate to a 
given point in our life-cycles and then take a snapshot of the DNA state in 
each of our cells.
 
A snapshot of a cell's DNA could be taken by including a trigger mechanism
within the chromosome that causes the chromosome to generate an extra
copy of itself.
The extra copies of the chromosomes could later be used as an
independent information 
source to correct errors caused by radiation and radical damage.  Of
course you would 
then have the problem of keeping the cell alive with two copies of its chromosomes 
contained within it.  Would such a cell be viable?

Perhaps a more workable path to the foutain of youth is to toughen human DNA against
random errors.  For example, one might be able to engineer better error-correction
codes within the DNA than nature provides (excision repair and so on).  This would 
reduce the frequency of random DNA errors.  Once you accomplish that, you 
would then need to get the life-cycle programmed into the DNA stuck in
an infinite loop
(presumably by throwing a monkey wrench into the works).

In any event, these problems will probably be solved long after have all died a 
horrible death and our DNA has been recycled back into the environment.

- The Grim Reaper












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