I’ve touted the remarkable medical potential of stem cells before, but I never imagined that their unique abilities could be applied to fully-developed cells too. According to a report from the BBC, that’s exactly what researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California accomplished (you could read the study’s paper in Nature)
Turritopsis nutricula probably isn’t well known. This tiny, coin-sized little jellyfish would hardly attract much notice or concern even without it’s ungraceful scientific name. This makes it all the more remarkable to consider that it may provide groundbreaking answers to regenerative medicine, if not to our concerns about mortality itself: it is thus far the only known animal on the planet capable of reverting back to youth.
Once again, the beauty of life has thoroughly seized me. Just looking at this gorgeous little creature makes me a tad sentimental, if I may be bold to admit:
I can’t stress enough how exciting this news is. While this fascinating and unique ability has been known for at least two decades, interest has been renewed given the recent advancements in stem cell research, the crucial element in regenerative and anti-aging efforts (it also helps that the jellyfish’s population has boomed, giving itself ample attention). If the properties that render this humble little creature immortal could be singled-out, harness, or duplicated, the ramifications would obviously be vast, to say the least.
A relatively concise but well-written article on the subject could be found here . It’s a few months old, but there’s been no further update as far as I know.
While I’m tempted to delve into the greater philosophical, social, and ethical consequences of all this, I think I’ll leave that for another post (although don’t hesitate to reflect on it yourself of course). As anxious as I am about this news, I have no delusions about the possibility of this being a dead end, or of the result advancements in biotechnology being corrupting in some way. But such concerns are of course only natural, and healthy. This should in no way interfere with what I believer is a natural response to such an amazing and potentially groundbreaking discovery. There is a lot left to glean and understand, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes and ears on this one.
While I’m at it, I might as well share this lighthearted take on it too.