Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Nov 2014

Creating Immortality Genes

When aging bodies lose their ability to repair DNA damage, the result is illness and death. In a recent study, scientists cultured E. coli bacteria to resist high-intensity radiation, enabling DNA repair to increase to the point it could withstand 1,000 times the radiation that would kill humans. This study indicates how we may be able to engineer our own human genes to ward off degenerative aging processes.

By William Faloon.

William Faloon
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.

Creating Immortality Genes  

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

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.

Compounds That Facilitate DNA Repair
Compounds That Facilitate DNA Repair

Fish Oil26-28

Vitamin B1229

Vitamin E30

Vitamin C31

Nicotinamide32

CoQ1033

Zinc34

Magnesium35,36

Selenium37

Polyphenols38-40

Grape Seed
Extract41,42

Curcumin43,44

Carotenoids45-47

Vitamin B6
(pyridoxine)48,49

Aspirin50,51

 

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

How Radiation Doses Are Measured

To understand the dose impact of ionizing radiation upon tissue, scientists utilize a unit of measurement called the “gray,” named in honor of British physicist Louis Harold Gray. The “gray” is abbreviated as “Gy,” which is the international system unit of radiation dose expressed in terms of absorbed energy per unit mass of tissue.

For perspective, the median lethal dose in humans of whole body ionizing radiation calculated from data based upon young adults inside reinforced concrete buildings that remained standing in Nagasaki after detonation of the atomic bomb in World War II is about 3 Gy.9 For comparison with medical diagnostic imaging procedures, the organ/local tissue dose to the breast from routine mammography is about 3 mGy (3 milligray, or 3/1,000 of a gray), to the stomach from a typical abdominal CT scan is about 20 mGy, and to the colon from a Barium enema is about 15 mGy.52

In the recent study that exposed multiple generations of the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) to potent, lethal doses of ionizing radiation, the researchers created a strain of E. coli that exhibited a substantial increase in resistance to ionizing radiation at a dose of 3,000 Gy.1

Creating Immortality Genes

Before the successful study at the University of Wisconsin, it was hard to point to an example of genetic manipulation that resulted in the creation of living matter resistant to something as deadly as high-intensity radiation. Skeptics challenged our assertions that finding a way to slow and reverse human aging may be as simple as identifying and correcting adverse gene expression changes that occur as we age.

By way of analogy, newborn humans usually remain in a stable healthy state for close to 25 years before outward senescent changes manifest. This means that the mere passage of time does not automatically condemn humans to degenerative aging.

When we can program our genes as easily as we do computers, humans might not need to suffer degenerative aging. They could possibly live in a long-term state of robust biological youth.

Your support has enabled Life Extension® to fund novel gene expression research. The encouraging news is that others (such as the founders of Google) are recognizing the importance of this field of study and are contributing their own money and resources to advance the science.

In this month’s issue, we profile Dr. J. Craig Venter, a billionaire who is building the largest human DNA sequencing operation in the world, capable of processing 40,000 human genomes a year. Dr. Venter is seeking to use DNA sequencing to identify the molecular causes of aging and age-related illnesses so that humans can live longer and healthier.

For longer life,

For Longer Life

William Faloon

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