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Employment Rate Unchanged at 3. Trade Statement; U. Aired a ET. Markets Near End of Volatile Week. States; U. Shares Hit All-Time Low. Capitol; U. Biological immortality is an absence of aging. Specifically it is the absence of a sustained increase in rate of mortality as a function of chronological age. A cell or organism that does not experience aging, or ceases to age at some point, is biologically immortal. Biologists have chosen the word "immortal" to designate cells that are not limited by the Hayflick limit , where cells no longer divide because of DNA damage or shortened telomeres.
The first and still most widely used immortal cell line is HeLa , developed from cells taken from the malignant cervical tumor of Henrietta Lacks without her consent in Prior to the work of Leonard Hayflick , there was the erroneous belief fostered by Alexis Carrel that all normal somatic cells are immortal.
By preventing cells from reaching senescence one can achieve biological immortality; telomeres, a "cap" at the end of DNA, are thought to be the cause of cell aging. Every time a cell divides the telomere becomes a bit shorter; when it is finally worn down, the cell is unable to split and dies. Telomerase is an enzyme which rebuilds the telomeres in stem cells and cancer cells, allowing them to replicate an infinite number of times. On the other hand, scientists hope to be able to grow organs with the help of stem cells, allowing organ transplants without the risk of rejection, another step in extending human life expectancy.
These technologies are the subject of ongoing research, and are not yet realized.
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Life defined as biologically immortal is still susceptible to causes of death besides aging, including disease and trauma, as defined above. Notable immortal species include:. As the existence of biologically immortal species demonstrates, there is no thermodynamic necessity for senescence: a defining feature of life is that it takes in free energy from the environment and unloads its entropy as waste.
Living systems can even build themselves up from seed, and routinely repair themselves. Aging is therefore presumed to be a byproduct of evolution , but why mortality should be selected for remains a subject of research and debate. Programmed cell death and the telomere "end replication problem" are found even in the earliest and simplest of organisms. Some scientists believe that boosting the amount or proportion of telomerase in the body, a naturally forming enzyme that helps maintain the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes , could prevent cells from dying and so may ultimately lead to extended, healthier lifespans.
In normal circumstances, without the presence of telomerase, if a cell divides repeatedly, at some point all the progeny will reach their Hayflick limit. With the presence of telomerase, each dividing cell can replace the lost bit of DNA , and any single cell can then divide unbounded. While this unbounded growth property has excited many researchers, caution is warranted in exploiting this property, as exactly this same unbounded growth is a crucial step in enabling cancerous growth.
If an organism can replicate its body cells faster, then it would theoretically stop aging.
Embryonic stem cells express telomerase, which allows them to divide repeatedly and form the individual. In adults, telomerase is highly expressed in cells that need to divide regularly e. Technological immortality is the prospect for much longer life spans made possible by scientific advances in a variety of fields: nanotechnology, emergency room procedures, genetics, biological engineering , regenerative medicine , microbiology , and others.
Contemporary life spans in the advanced industrial societies are already markedly longer than those of the past because of better nutrition, availability of health care, standard of living and bio-medical scientific advances. Technological immortality predicts further progress for the same reasons over the near term. An important aspect of current scientific thinking about immortality is that some combination of human cloning , cryonics or nanotechnology will play an essential role in extreme life extension.
Robert Freitas , a nanorobotics theorist, suggests tiny medical nanorobots could be created to go through human bloodstreams, find dangerous things like cancer cells and bacteria, and destroy them.
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This supports the theory that we will be able to continually create biological or synthetic replacement parts to replace damaged or dying ones. Future advances in nanomedicine could give rise to life extension through the repair of many processes thought to be responsible for aging. Eric Drexler , one of the founders of nanotechnology , postulated cell repair devices, including ones operating within cells and utilizing as yet hypothetical biological machines , in his book Engines of Creation.
Raymond Kurzweil , a futurist and transhumanist , stated in his book The Singularity Is Near that he believes that advanced medical nanorobotics could completely remedy the effects of aging by Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to as Feynman put it " swallow the doctor ".
Cryonics , the practice of preserving organisms either intact specimens or only their brains for possible future revival by storing them at cryogenic temperatures where metabolism and decay are almost completely stopped, can be used to 'pause' for those who believe that life extension technologies will not develop sufficiently within their lifetime. Ideally, cryonics would allow clinically dead people to be brought back in the future after cures to the patients' diseases have been discovered and aging is reversible.
Modern cryonics procedures use a process called vitrification which creates a glass-like state rather than freezing as the body is brought to low temperatures. This process reduces the risk of ice crystals damaging the cell-structure, which would be especially detrimental to cell structures in the brain, as their minute adjustment evokes the individual's mind.
One idea that has been advanced involves uploading an individual's habits and memories via direct mind-computer interface. The individual's memory may be loaded to a computer or to a new organic body. Extropian futurists like Moravec and Kurzweil have proposed that, thanks to exponentially growing computing power, it will someday be possible to upload human consciousness onto a computer system, and exist indefinitely in a virtual environment.
This could be accomplished via advanced cybernetics, where computer hardware would initially be installed in the brain to help sort memory or accelerate thought processes. Components would be added gradually until the person's entire brain functions were handled by artificial devices, avoiding sharp transitions that would lead to issues of identity , thus running the risk of the person to be declared dead and thus not be a legitimate owner of his or her property.
After this point, the human body could be treated as an optional accessory and the program implementing the person could be transferred to any sufficiently powerful computer. Another possible mechanism for mind upload is to perform a detailed scan of an individual's original, organic brain and simulate the entire structure in a computer. What level of detail such scans and simulations would need to achieve to emulate awareness, and whether the scanning process would destroy the brain, is still to be determined.
An uploaded mind would only be a copy of the original mind, and not the conscious mind of the living entity associated in such a transfer. Without a simultaneous upload of consciousness, the original living entity remains mortal, thus not achieving true immortality.
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Whatever the route to mind upload, persons in this state could then be considered essentially immortal, short of loss or traumatic destruction of the machines that maintained them. Transforming a human into a cyborg can include brain implants or extracting a human processing unit and placing it in a robotic life-support system. Even replacing biological organs with robotic ones could increase life span e. Some people believe that such modifications would make one impervious to aging and disease and theoretically immortal unless killed or destroyed.