Creating Immortal GenesNovember 2014
By William Faloon
When we talk about radically extending the human life span, few scientists understand how easy it may be to accomplish this.
A new study done on the E. coli bacteria provides a fascinating insight as to how humans could be transformed into virtually invulnerable super-beings.
Radiation is incredibly dangerous to living processes. It can kill acutely1 or damage DNA and later cause cancer2 and atherosclerosis.3
Through a relatively simple process, E. coli were cultured to resist destruction caused by high-intensity radiation. By the end of the study, these bacteria could withstand 1,000 times the radiation dose that kills most humans.4
What excites us is the mechanism by which these bacteria were able to avoid radiation destruction.
The bacteria in this study were able to elude death from extreme radiation by dramatically accelerating their DNA repair processes.4
The significance of this finding is profound. Cellular DNA suffers relentless injury through internal and external factors.5 A fundamental problem with pathological aging is faulty DNA repair.6 When we lose our ability to repair DNA damage, illness and death ensues.
If we can amplify our DNA repair genes, we could become as invulnerable to degenerative diseases as the E. coli bacteria were to radiation. By genetically engineering humans to accelerated DNA repair capability (as was done in the E. coli bacteria), humans could theoretically be 1,000 times more resistant to aging and death.
We at Life Extension® are not the only proponents of this ambitious concept. As we report in this month’s issue, still another billionaire has set up a new company to figure a way to genetically engineer humans to live longer. We say “still another billionaire” because there are already a number of wealthy individuals pouring money into research aimed at markedly extending healthy life spans.
In a landmark study emanating from the University of Wisconsin, E. coli bacteria were made invulnerable to extreme radiation. What intrigues us is that only a handful of favorable genetic changes were required to enable dramatically accelerated DNA repair, which is how the E. coli were able to survive the radiation onslaught.
What the scientists who conducted this study did was remarkably simple. They exposed a colony of E. coli to a dose of ionizing radiation that killed 99% of the bacteria. The 1% that survived were cultured and then exposed to a still higher dose of ionizing radiation.4 This process was repeated 20 more times until a strain of E. coli emerged that was able to withstand what would be the equivalent of about 1,000 times the median lethal human dose of ionizing radiation (assuming whole body exposure).
Magnitude Of The Radiation Dose
Ionizing radiation causes damage to DNA and increases cancer risk.7 At high doses, it is acutely lethal. The absorbed dose of ionizing radiation on biological tissue is measured in a unit called the gray (Gy).8
The median human lethal dose of whole body ionizing radiation is calculated based upon young adults inside reinforced concrete buildings that remained standing in Nagasaki after detonation of the atomic bomb. Exposure to about 3 Gy caused acute death.9
To understand the magnitude of protection conferred on the E. coli bacteria by University of Wisconsin researchers, the strain of E. coli they created was resistant to an ionizing radiation dose of an astounding 3,000 Gy, which equates to 1,000 times the median human lethal dose. To place into context the type of extreme radiation resistance exhibited by this strain of E. coli, the dose of 3,000 Gy is about 1 million times the breast tissue exposure of a mammogram, 150,000 times the stomach tissue exposure of an abdominal CT scan, and about 200,000 times the tissue exposure to the colon from a Barium enema.10,11
How These Findings Pertain To Humans
The genes that allow some organisms to survive extreme radiation doses are important because several of the DNA repair pathways found in microbes also exist in humans.12-14
A remarkable amount of research is being done on the human genome with the objective of discovering cures for today’s killer diseases. But this science is still in relative infancy.
It may only require, however, a small advance in our understanding of the genome to create humans with virtual immortality genes. An argument can be made that finding a way to reverse aging by turning on DNA repair genes may be simple compared to creating bacteria that can withstand 1,000 times the lethal human dose of ionizing radiation.
What Can Be Done Today To Facilitate DNA Repair?
People seeking to extend their life spans today avoid toxins (such as tobacco smoke and overcooked food) that damage DNA.
Vitamin D has been shown to play an important role in DNA repair, which helps explain why people with higher levels of vitamin D show lower rates of most degenerative diseases.15-18 Folic acid is also critical in maintaining DNA repair mechanisms.19-25
Many of the supplements we take daily have been shown to help facilitate DNA repair. The box on this page provides a partial listing. Until recently, however, there has been relatively little we can do to facilitate the meaningful DNA repair needed to completely stave off age-related disease.
No therapy today can accelerate DNA repair to the magnitude that was shown in the University of Wisconsin study on E. coli. Yet we may be only a few breakthroughs away from being able to engineer our genes to transform us into super-beings, capable of warding off all degenerative aging processes.
The first article in this month’s issue describes a new way to accelerate DNA repair by increasing the amount of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) in our cells.53,54