Learned Helplessness About Immortality (fwd)

Don Ashley dashley at TENET.EDU
Sat Mar 2 06:02:44 EST 1996

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 09:45:02 CST
From: Edward Friedlander, M.D. <ERF at ALUM.UHS.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list TALK-MAN <TALK-MAN at TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Learned Helplessness About Immortality (fwd)

> Consider the discovery of telomerase, the 'immortality' enzyme in cancer
> cells. If telomerase is manipulated into healthy cells, we may literally
> be able to stop aging.
Anybody who's still taking this seriously is a sucker.  I'm still
hearing these telomerase claims (and was the first guy at my medical
school to present the original discovery of the loss of telomeres,
during lecture).
The ends of chromosomes (telomeres) shorten with cell division under
some circumstances, but it seems preposterous to think that this is
happening in the reserve cells of skin, marrow, gut epithelium, and
so forth.  Nor is it reasonable to believe that these cells can
divide only fifty times (the "Hayflick phenomenon").
Further, the cells that bear the brunt of aging (i.e., the brain
cells) don't even divide.  The other familiar changes of aging are
obviously programmed genetically (I'm thinking, for example, of the
loss of receptors from the erectile tissues, which are also made up
of non-dividing cells).
I appreciate anybody who wants to offer hope to others.  Sorry, but
this particular hope is vain.  Our bodies are programmed to wear out.

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