Can humans become immortal?

Yes, right here, right now.

Last week I discovered a simple and inexpensive way to immortality.

Effort to prolong life had never been an easy affair, and people go to bizarre extent to attain immortality. In third century BC Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang realized that the element mercury does not get degraded in nature. He quickly realized its potential in prolonging life and ingested mercury, and eventually died. More recently Max More, CEO of a company called ‘Alcor' in Scottsdale, Arizona published his photograph in the internet, standing in front of a high tech freezing unit with 147 bodies of people who died but plans to return back to life when the time is ripe. According to More such time is not far away. With the bodies kept fresh with liquid nitrogen, the dead can just get up and drive out, once the technology is right; the catch is, no one is sure of the time frame. With a price tag of 200,000 US$ (Rs 1.4 Cr) it is a bit expensive at the moment.

Between such outrageous experiment to keep us alive, basic science is working hard to find a genuine solution.

The real breakthrough came in 1961, when American anatomist Leonard Hayflick, working at the Wistar Institute at Philadelphia, found that human fetal cells, when maintained in a cell culture, stopped dividing and died after 40 to 60 divisions, no matter however comfortably you house them and whatever nutrients you add to the culture medium. He investigated the phenomena further and found that with each cell division a protein by name ‘telomere' residing at the end of chromosomes, gets depleted a little bit by bit. Telomere remain at the end of a chromosome and act as a protective shoe, preventing it from getting damaged in the journey of life. Once the ‘telomere' shoe is damaged, the chromosome declines to multiply. Later Elizabeth Blackwell from New Zeeland found out that an organism tetrahymena hydrophilia has an overdose of an enzyme called telomerase which upgrades telomere activity to such a level that it doesn't die. Subsequently she succeeded in finding out the exact role of telomerase in disease like cancer and heart disease and showed that an excess of telomerase is what makes a cancer cell immortal and so difficult to kill. She was awarded the Nobel prize in 2009 for her discovery. In 2010, scientists from Harvard at the Dana-Farber cancer institute created a mutant mouse with excess of telomerase that has a 24% long life compared to its normal siblings and that too with no excess incidence of cancers. Immortality may not be too far away.

It is estimated that in India, there are quarter-of-a-million cases of chronic liver disease, half-a-million end stage chronic kidney disease and around 10 million cases of corneal blindness, their only hope is an organ transplant. The present numbers of 500 Liver transplants, 5000 kidney transplants and around 50,000 cornea transplants a year in India is like using few pebbles trying to fill up the Mariana trench. Last week I saw a family, the kid having corneal blindness. The boy doesn't see the light of the day, and with the endless wait for the corneal transplant, his parents don't see light at the end of the tunnel.

An organ donation pledge takes just few minutes but can guarantee you immortality for sure. And you save 200, 000 US $ in the bargain. With at least 6 people getting a new lease of life with kidney, heart, liver and cornea, it is immortality 6 times over.

I pledged and attained immortality last week. What are you waiting for?

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