115-Year-Old Woman’s Blood Reveals Limits on Longevity

By Carl Engelking | April 24, 2014 2:30 pm


Discovering the secret to a long and healthy life has always intrigued humanity — you need look no further than the nearest magazine rack to see that that fascination is today alive and well. And now scientists have some new hints, thanks to blood samples from one of the longest-lived humans yet to walk this Earth: Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who was 115 when she died in 2005. A new genetic analysis of blood and tissue samples collected during her autopsy indicates that life’s outer limits might be set by our cells’ finite ability to divide.

Tired Stem Cells

We are born with up to 20,000 hematopoietic stem cells — cells that give rise to new blood cells — that self-renew in our body every 25 to 50 weeks by dividing creating two daughter cells. These cells differentiate to generate the various types of blood cells in our bodies. About 1,300 of those hematopoietic stem cells are dedicated to creating new white blood cells in our bone marrow. By contrast scientists found that Andel-Schipper’s blood, at the time of her death, was being derived from only two active stem cells — suggesting the rest wore out and died.

In addition, the telomeres on her white blood cells’ chromosomes were extremely short, 17 times shorter than the telomeres in her brain’s cells (which rarely divide after birth). This was further evidence that Andel-Schipper’s blood stem cells had suffered the ravages of aging. The number of times our stem cells can divide may be the reason our lives are finite, the study suggests. The results were published Wednesday in the journal Genome Research.

The Fountain of Youth

As with any study of aging, the question of how these findings might be tapped to help the rest of us live longer and healthier is a central one. And study author Henne Holstege thinks stem cells could be key. She told New Scientist that the results raise the possibility of rejuvenating aging bodies by injecting people with stem cells saved from early in their lives.

Further research is needed to determine whether stem cell exhaustion itself causes mortality or whether it’s a side effect of the aging process. But with more and more supercentenarians like Andel-Schipper, they should have a growing group of study subjects in the years ahead.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
MORE ABOUT: aging, genes & health
  • Persephone Abel

    My guess is the latter; it’s probably an effect of the aging process, not a cause.

  • det0918

    There are so many other variables that were not even considered – what about the predominate nutritional deficiency in this country -due to pesticides, air pollution, vaccines filled with neurotoxins, lower levels of oxygen, soil depletion – etc. your body/cells cannot work properly if starved of the “complete” nutrition and oxygen that it takes to keep it in balance! This appears to be more junk science -

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Eric Lipps

      Then why are there “more and more supercentenarians”?
      When I was in grade school, I attended for several years a Seventh-Day Adventist school whose teachers were constantly bombarding us kids with studies purporting to prove that the Adventists’ vegetarianism gave them superior health. Funny thing was (well, not so funny), that school turned out to be a “cancer cluster”; several of the children I knew were affected. There were also a lot of other health problems; some of the children, for example, were literally too thin to be vaccinated, while others were grossly fat.
      When it comes to nutrition, there’s an incredible amount of quackery around. Your best bet is your simplest: moderation.

      • Odin Matanguihan

        I too find it unusual that a certain SDA pastor kept telling me about healthy food choices when it is painfully obvious that I am a lot healthier than virtually anyone in his flock.

        • JohnFMayer

          And I am healthier than most meat-eaters I know. Both statements, of course, mean very little.

          • Jamie Gilbert

            Good for you

          • JohnFMayer

            My point exactly.

      • http://www.gohealthy4life.com/ Doug

        That’s true. And there are more obese people then ever before and the rate of cancer is higher now than it was 50 years ago. Given a larger population there are bound to be more living longer, however, I bet it’s still the same percentile.
        Lots of quackery, but also lots of good science. Knowing the source is very important to cutting through the crap. There are a few facts; artificial sweateners are not good for us, our foods are not as nutritious as they were 20-30 years ago, environmental toxins can not be avoided, evidence is mounting that GMO is not good and you can not trust the food industry or government in protecting our health interests. Eating junk, even in moderation, over a life time will take its toll. Informed moderation is best.

    • UnexpectedTiger

      Pesticides – Probably not important, for human rather than environmental health. Except for farm workers most people’s exposure to pesticides is pretty minimal – there’s not much left on many foods.
      Air pollution – This is bad for you. It’s got a lot better in the West over the last few decades though.
      Vaccines filled with neurotoxins – Nonsense. They’re not. Dangerous nonsense that’s been debunked many, many times.
      Lower levels of oxygen – What? The atmosphere still has 21% oxygen. People who really do live at high altitude where there’s less oxygen are in some ways healthier (they win marathons anyway).

      • http://www.gohealthy4life.com/ Doug

        Studies have shown that there are an average of 167 toxic chemicals floating around in our blood stream. Their impact on human health has never been tested so what would you suggest is a safe level of exposure? The lack of trace minerals in our foods from farming practices and soil depletion has been linked to disease. It’s easy to stick your head in the sand and believe that environment toxins are not impacting our health, but the latest studies are showing otherwise.

        • UnexpectedTiger

          I’m not sure what study you mean or how it defines ‘toxic’ (anything including water is toxic if you have enough of it). Or whether they were only counting artificial toxins, because there are plenty of natural toxins too. There are also some that modern lifestyles reduce exposure to, such as those related to smoke inhalation from open fires.

          I’m sure there are some chemicals we’re exposed to that are particularly bad for us and those should be identified. However, overall I’m not aware of any major health problems that economic development seems to make worse except those connected to fat/sugar/alcohol/inactivity etc. and simply to age (since we do live longer).

          Lack of trace minerals in foods may be linked to disease. So is starvation, which is what we’d have without modern farming methods.

          • http://www.gohealthy4life.com/ Doug

            Our bodies have evolved to handle most of the naturally occurring toxins in small concentrations. However, the impact of the 10,000 plus artificial chemicals on our health is mostly unknown. Some of the bad ones are known and still in use due to political pressure from the industries producing them. Some diseases, such as MS, autism, dimentia are more prevalent in people from specific areas. Communities near refineries have a disproportionate number of female births. Children who were prenatally exposed to toxins lag behind developmentally. Bisphenol A (BPA) was not removed from plastic water bottles until a few years ago. Flame retardants used in baby’s car seats cause cancerous tumors. Dioxins were at one time considered safe. Just because you haven’t heard about the health issues doesn’t mean there arn’t any.

          • amphiox

            All those chemicals you complain about were not added to our environment by some supervillain for kicks and giggles. They were adopted and used, one at a time, by well meaning people seeking to better the lives for themselves and their fellow humans. Each continued to be used because each had a real tangible benefit on quality of life that people could immediately see and recognize.

            Before this era with those chemicals in our environment, lifespans were shorter, life was harder, and many more died young.

            Those flame retardants, for example, saved countless infants from burning to death. So what happened was a trade of a risk of burning to death at age 1 with a risk of getting cancer at age 60. I think that’s a trade-off I can live with.

            Of course, some of those chemicals are simply bad mistakes and bad ideas all around, because people aren’t perfect and sometimes we mess up big time, but in general, and overall, what we have been doing throughout our technological evolution is trading a future problem for a more immediate benefit. We have been pushing back the hazards that threaten us further and further away in time.

            Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so forth, are problems today because we live long enough to actually become at risk for them. Because infectious disease and starvation and predators are NOT (or at least less of) a problem than they used to be. Some of the solutions we used to help us overcome disease, and starvation and predators (and accidents) in the near term are the same ones that are increasing our problems with the longterm.

            And when (if) we solve these modern problems, you can bet that the solutions will have their OWN, unforeseen new problems.

            Because, in this universe, there are no free lunches.

    • Skarn22

      The article never claimed to have found a single overarching cause though.
      Also, as far as I know none of the things you listed have even been linked to aging, so… what?

  • John Majkrzak

    Fascinating, you know this means Zombies were the first to make the brain stem cell link.

  • Mary Ciulla

    An autopsy was done on a 115 year old woman? Did she have an arrangement with someone to do this?

    • Leonid Proxy

      What does that have to do with anything?

      • Jamie Gilbert

        Some people view that as disrespectful, sad you can’t understand it was simply a question.

    • Odin Matanguihan

      A similar article elsewhere mentioned that she donated her body. I guess that means a yes to your question.

      But I’m not sure if explicit permission is really necessary for autopsies as these things are kinda routine. It would make sense for me if it is allowed by default unless the person has expressed objection to it, or if her religious background suggests that she would have objected to it.

  • u14011052

    u14011052 This article provides insight on how medical technology may be used in the future to extend human life, but who are the people that will end up benefiting from these treatments? Surely only those who can afford it. Theoretically, even if the majority of the world’s population’s lives are going to be extended to unnatural lengths, this will have an adverse effect on the environment because of overpopulation. The Earth’s natural resources will be depleted at a much faster rate. A lot of money is being used to theorise on how human life can be extended, but can this money not be put to better use if it is used to extend the lives of babies who may die at infancy due to starvation?

    • Leonid Proxy

      Space Travel and Space Exploration will solve the majority of the problems states in your post :). This is exactly why Humanity needs to stop turning a blind eye to it and start exploiting it as a species and not as separate organizations.

      • RoyShastid

        While I agree with the pressing !!!!! need to step up our game in space exploration. It will not fix overpopulation problems. If every commercial airplane was miraculously converted into a space ship capable of carrying full loads of people to Mars everyday we would not make a dent in the population growth.

        • Cory Loomis

          Yay people on my level!!!

          • Lando Goshen

            Yay people on Cory’s level!

        • Cory Loomis

          If you want to explore outside of our solar system you will have to live for much longer other wise you won’t make the trip. Think navy vessels vs. Commercial airplanes crossing the galaxy. You have to leave the solar system. When our sun goes super nova that’s all she wrote

          • New Heights

            the sun won’t go supernova and Mars is within our solar system…

          • Cory Loomis

            Yes I know Mars is within our Solar system that’s why I said you have to leave it. I misspoke, the sun will go nova/red giant eventually. It’s fate.

          • New Heights

            it won’t though.

          • amphiox

            The sun will not go nova unless some future humans invent a nova bomb and are foolish enough to fire it into the sun. The sun will go red giant and Mars will be baked. Interestingly, during the red giant phase, Saturn’s moon Titan will have pretty nice conditions. After that, the sun shrinks to a white dwarf and Titan freezes over again.

            However, the technology required to leave the solar system involves continuous life support not dependent on starlight for near-indefinite durations. If you have such technology, you really don’t need to worry about the sun one way or another, because you don’t need it anymore. You can live of mobile habitats (don’t need planets either), and simply move out as the sun expands to avoid getting cooked (or if your heat shielding is REALLY good, you don’t even have to do that), then move back in when it shrinks to a white dwarf, and you never actually NEED to leave the solar system at all.

            Though you might WANT to, just because a dying white dwarf solar system is a rather boring place to live.

          • amphiox

            And we are talking about billions of years in the future (about 1 billion before earth becomes uninhabitable, about 4 billion before earth and mars are melted/fried by the expanding red giant sun). For comparison all of life on earth has so far existed for 3.5 billion years.

            So the point in time when the sun goes red giant is further away from the present than the present is from the first organisms to appear on earth. In that unfathomable length of time there’s no telling what might happen. Humans may not exist anymore, at least not in any currently recognizable form. The issue of building spaceships to leave the solar system might be mute.

      • J. Fischer

        Merely leaving the planet won’t solve overpopulation. How many people died in the tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima reactor? Before the day was out, that number had been more than replaced. We’d have to transport billions of people to reduce the planet’s population.

        • Lando Goshen

          Merely leaving the planet will solve overpopulation. There are more raw materials and drinking water in the asteroids than on Earth. Ground-to-orbit expenditures will continue to drop. Billions will live in close orbit colonies. Not to mention far orbit destinations.
          We are but a foot forward, not a journey completed.

          • amphiox

            “Merely” leaving the planet won’t solve the problem. Population growth is exponential, expansion is linear. The math has been done. Even assuming continuous outward expansion into space in a sphere around the solar system (a highly optimistic assumption) population growth will always outstrip the increased availability of resources. (Remember that space is mostly space. There are lots of resources out there, but they are scattered far and wide, with local concentration separated by vast emptiness) The center of the expansion bubble (ie, earth) will always be population dense and resource-restricted, with scarcity and competition from overpopulation.

            Imagine a future where humanity is spreading out and filling the solar system. New resources are obtained and encountered at the EDGE of the exploration front. But people are living in and being born throughout the whole volume. The center, earth, is surrounded in all sides by areas almost as population dense and resource depleted. To get to the frontier where the resources are (or bring the resources from the frontier back to the center), you have to travel ALL the way to the edge of the solar system.

            Going into space *extends* the period of time before the problem of overpopulation becomes overwhelming (and so is a good thing to do). But it doesn’t solve it. The only thing that can solve it is voluntary limitation of reproductive rates. Or we keep on expanding and expanding until finally overpopulation catches up with and overtakes our ability to expand more, and we crash (hopefully not all the way to zero), after which we start over again.

          • Lando Goshen

            “…To get to the frontier where the resources are (or bring the resources from the frontier back to the center), you have to travel ALL the way to the edge of the solar system…”
            They are already planning a future mission to move and park asteroids for Lunar-orbit mining of resources. It is past the feasibility stage.
            There is already methods available to placate the Earth-centrist’s need to stay in their nest. It will be difficult to get a consensus of doomsayers to resist the draw outwards from the home gravity well.
            The resources are spread out in consecutive “belts”, and past supernova debris fields all the way to the next closest star system (Proxima Centauri). The general growth will be in that direction.

          • amphiox

            This is all true, or at least it may be true (future technologies and resource needs may result in different expansion priorities with different goals and directions).

            But none of that changes the basic math that so long as there is exponential population growth, population pressure will always increase faster than the rate of new resource acquisition by expansion, even in the “perfect” situation where the resources are evenly and densely distributed around the earth in a perfect sphere.

            In other words, even if space was filled to the last cubic inch with mana itself, simple expansion will never “solve” the problem of overpopulation for the human species.

            We could park every single asteroid in the solar system in lunar orbit, and it wouldn’t be enough. The population will always end up growing faster, at some point, than our ability to find new asteroids, so long as there is an exponential population growth of whatever rate. The same statement is true for any other resource, and all resources combined.

            We have to do both at the same time, expand into space as well as control population growth to a sustainable, non-exponential rate.

          • Lando Goshen

            If you could enforce a “no expansion into space” policy, then that philosophy would hold true, as there would be no growth space to buy time. With passing time, longevity advances wisdom potential, tapping into a wider array of advancement possibilities not otherwise available to the earthbound paradigm.
            The formula is adjusted by the fresh new indices available.
            Space travel speed, timespace itself, quantum manipulations, interstellar space, resources development, genetic and physiologic structure, etc…
            We did not cease, nor did we tarry long at Olduvai Gorge.

          • amphiox

            No. The population mathematics I refer to assumes NO barriers to outward expansion AT ALL, neither legal or natural. It assumes the PERFECT conditions for expansion, if all of space were as friendly to human habitation as earth, including empty space itself, and the cost of moving is ZERO.

            Even in this idealized and impossibly perfect scenario, migration does not and cannot by itself solve the problem of population overload from exponential growth. Population growth rates always end up faster than the maximum possible migration rate, if exponential population growth is allowed to continue.

            Leaving Olduvai Gorge did NOT solve overpopulation within Olduvai Gorge. Leaving Africa did NOT solve overpopulation within Africa, which today is as bad as it ever has been.

            It can delay the onset of overpopulation problems (but often not), but it cannot solve the problem.

            If you want specific numbers, on earth the population increased by 210 MILLION people this year, and that number increases every single year, with exponential growth. To make even a dent in that population pressure, you have to move and then house and support, more than 210 million people off the planet in a year, and expect to have to move more than that for every subsequent year.

            How many people can the Moon, or Mars, support. Even the most optimistic estimates put the number at just a few hundred million for Mars and just tens of thousands for the moon. How many people can a single orbital colony support? Even the most optimistic estimates using technology that doesn’t even exist and would take several decades to develop suggest no more than ten thousand or so per colony.

            What technology do you propose could move 210 million people to Mars RIGHT NOW? If you wait for future technology, then the number you need to transport goes EVEN HIGHER, thanks to exponential growth. Even if you could, the next year you need to transport ANOTHER 210+ million off earth, and now the Mars colony is filled up and cannot support any more immigration (and has gained several tens of thousands of new births itself). Where does that next 210+ million go. Can they get there within a year? Because if it takes more than one year to travel, then you have to deal with ANOTHER 210+ million that will need transport off world the next year.

            If you talk orbital colonies, thats 20 or more orbital colonies to be manufactured from earth every year, starting NOW. (Wait for more advanced technology, and you need to build even more.) And those colonies will have growing populations of their own. When they fill up, people will need to migrate out of THEM as well.

            There are plenty of good reasons to expand, explore, and migrate. Solving population pressure, however, is not one of them.

          • Lando Goshen

            No Amphiox. Your math is incomplete. There is more dynamics to space yet realized at this primitive juncture. This is not the location to make such exponential conclusions. Either was Olduvai. Higg’s, Planck, and Einstein have alluded clearly enough to that.

          • amphiox

            No matter what potential “dynamics” to space may yet be realized, they can never exceed the perfect simulation which assumes 100% utilization and zero barriers, without breaking the laws of physics and biology themselves.

            If you’re going to hang your hat on some potential future revision of the laws of physics, then you may as well be wishing for magic.

            It may happen, but there is no guarantee that it will. You cannot make rational arguments or decisions based on wishes for things you do not know are even possible to happen.

            See, no matter what the “dynamics” as yet unrealized in space, population growth will continue IN SPACE, once we get into space, if we get into space. The “space” you wish to use to relieve population pressure on earth will always eventually be filled up faster by new people born IN SPACE, than you can transport people from earth too that new space. The better the “dynamics” in space there are, the faster it will fill up with new births. So those “dynamics” will actually work equally AGAINST you as for you, when you seek to relieve population pressure from earth. It cancels out, no matter what they are.

            The rate of population filling up from new births will increase at a cubic rate, with volume. The rate at which you can find new living space by expansion and exploration grows at a square rate, with the surface area of the expansion bubble. A cubic rate ALWAYS eventually exceeds a square rate, assuming exponential growth.

            To avoid that mathematical reality, you have to stop exponential growth.

            There is no other way. Space colonization can only delay the inevitable population crisis. It cannot solve it. Only the cessation of exponential growth solves the problem.

          • Lando Goshen

            The evidence does not support your claims. Homosexuals don’t procreate, they emerge from the heterosexual population. Large populations have poor drinking water quality and poor sewage disposal issues that inflict there toll. Wars. Famine. Pestilence. Greed.
            These are just a few of the natural logarithms you are not factoring in.
            I won’t even bother you with the light-speed environment variables…
            You’ve had your say, and I’ve had mine. Your math needs further work. You will no doubt have plenty of time in the future for adjustment of that.

          • amphiox

            All those factors (half of which aren’t even relevant) apply equally to the growing population on earth and the growing population in space, and cancel out. Contrary to your claim they ALL have indeed been factored in in the math to which I refer. And indeed we have more than math. We have the entirety of human history as direct evidence. We have seen how ALL of those issues played out in previous episodes of exploration and expansion. And in ALL those cases the presence of such factors did not in any way help solve population pressure problems on the home front. The period of time in which they were significantly better in the new land due to lower population density there was always relatively minuscule, and it was always only a short period of time before they became problems in the new lands as well that precluded any further usefulness of the new land as a relief of population pressure for the old land. And this crunch always happened faster than even more new lands could be found and settled.

            If you are hoping that such factors will somehow be different for space colonization than they were for all the rest of human history, then you are engaging in wishful fantasy.

            If you’re going to include light-speed, then you REALLY talking fantasy.

            Colonization only delays population pressure problems. The only way to solve population pressure problems is cessation of exponential growth.

          • Lando Goshen

            If the Universe, and by that, room for growth, is infinite in territorial expansion possibilities, then population pressure problems should always be out-paced, as they have always been. Business as usual without any adjustments needed. Et cetera, ad infinitum.

          • amphiox

            The size of the universe is not the relevant measure. The relevant measures are the RATE at which expansion can increase over time, (which is finite and always will be finite), and the RATE at which population will grow over time.

            The first can increase only, at most, at a square rate. The second will always, if exponential growth continues, increase at a cubic rate, three dimensional space. (And it doesn’t matter if you go to higher or lower dimensions. The growth rate is always one dimension higher than the expansion rate)

            A cubic rate ALWAYS eventually outpaces a square rate. Thus the rate of population growth will always eventually outstrip the rate of new expansion and population pressure will NOT be solved by expansion. It doesn’t matter what kind of fantastical technology you envision, so long as it is not a technology that halts exponential growth. This relationship will always hold due to the simple geometry of spacetime.

            And this “as they have always been” is, again, simply an erroneous and false understanding of reality or history. They, in reality, have NEVER been. Population pressure has NEVER, EVER, been solved by expansion. Not in human history, nor in the history of any other living thing that grows at an exponential rate. Delayed, sometimes. But never solved.

            Population pressure can only be solved by halting exponential growth. If exponential growth cannot be halted, then population pressure will never be solved. Period.

            There are many good reasons to explore and settle space. Solving population pressures on earth will not and will never be one of them.

          • Lando Goshen

            What you’re doing is agreeing with the natural inclination to head for orbital space environs. One doesn’t live in a gravity well and not suffer.
            Search: Sam Kinison World Hunger for the best response to your complaints.

          • amphiox

            I never said I was AGAINST colonizing space. Only that colonizing space would not solve overpopulation problems.

            We WILL, hopefully, colonize space one day. And it will be glorious.

            But, we will still bring our overpopulation problems with us, wherever we go, so long as we continue to have exponential population growth.

          • Lando Goshen

            Overpopulation is not a problem. The Chinese have practiced one-child-per-family for a very short time, and the future of their graying workforce seems to be a real problem.

          • amphiox

            YOU started this argument with your assertion that going to space will “solve” the problem of overpopulation.

            And now you try to claim that it is “not a problem”?

            How intellectually dishonest is that?

            You think the Chinese one-child-per-family policy is actually sustainable over hundreds and thousands of years and is compatible with a non-totalitarian form of government? Enforceable over the entirety of humanity? Which is what it would need to be to be a viable solution for long term overpopulation.

            Even if so, that would be an example of STOPPING EXPONENTIAL POPULATION GROWTH, which, need I remind you, I have been CONTINUALLY stating throughout this conversation to be the only true solution to overpopulation, if it is doable.

            I am finding your recent comments increasing dishonest and incoherent. You darn right SHOULD be sorry.

            We are done.

          • Lando Goshen

            No, let me further refresh your memory of your original argument:

            “…(amphioxi): To get to the frontier where the resources are (or bring the resources from the frontier back to the center), you have to travel ALL the way to the edge of the solar system.
            (Lando):They are already planning a future mission to move and park asteroids for Lunar-orbit mining of resources. It is past the feasibility stage…”

            That exponential growth is not a problem, then space colonization will solve the rest of it. Case closed.

          • amphiox

            That is NOT an honest argument! There is no “rest of it” for space colonization to solve. If you solve exponential population growth (and so far there is no known way to end exponential population growth without stagnation and extinction of the species) then all the other “problems” will go away automatically on their own with time, whether you colonize space or not. To claim credit for space colonization for “solving” that “rest of it” is the height of dishonesty. The problem of overpopulation is solved by ending exponential growth. Space colonization has no relevance whatsoever to the issue.

            I am getting tired of your dishonest argument tactics.


            (Your asteroid mining technology has no relevant bearing whatsoever on the issue of exponential population growth, by the way, and is utterly irrelevant to that issue. And parking those asteroids STILL REQUIRES YOU TO TRAVEL THERE FIRST TO GET THEM.)

            (I have already gone into this, but since you remain dishonest enough to ignore it, I will repeat it. The mathematics assume infinite resource availability and instantaneous transport. In other words, the math already assumes the “ideal, technologically perfect scenario”. Put into practical terms, the math already assumes a scenario where you have an infinite supply of asteroids ALREADY parked around your moon, or wherever else you want them, AND it also assumes that you don’t even need to mine those asteroids, that all the resources you need from them are already fully refined on the surface for you to just go there and pick up and take back to earth. EVEN THEN, it cannot solve overpopulation.)

            (Furthermore, the ultimate goal of such asteroid harvesting schemes has never been, and never will be, alleviation of resource-related problems on earth. The earth is made up, in its entirety, of asteroids, and the earth’s mass is greater by several orders of magnitude, than all the asteroids in our solar system put together. It will ALWAYS be more economically viable to harvest resources ON EARTH, if the resources are used ON EARTH. If you actually have the fantasy technology that allows you to cheaply grab asteroids at will and tug them back safely into lunar orbit and mine from them and refine the minerals and transport all that back to earth, then you have the technology to just drill into the earth’s mantle and extract the same resources, for less money and effort.

            The goal of asteroid mining is always for use of those resources IN SPACE. Because it costs less to extract them from asteroids in space than it does to get them from earth and boost them into space out of earth’s gravity well. Thus asteroid mining, and all other space-based resource harvesting, is used to support colonizing of space itself, for use in space. It will always be more economical for those resources to be used in space rather than on earth, so the impact on population growth will simply be supporting more population growth in space, which actually makes the population problem on earth worse.)

            And the ultimate purpose of space colonization is the long term survival of the species. It has nothing whatsoever to do with overpopulation, which will either be solved independently, or remain a problem to be dealt with, in space and on earth.

          • amphiox

            And Jesus F-ing Christ, war, pestilence, famine, greed and so forth ARE the problems of population pressure that one is attempting to solve. If you’re going to rely on such things to make your colonization program work you HAVEN’T SOLVED ANYTHING WORTHWHILE WHATSOEVER.

          • Lando Goshen

            Meanwhile the manicured Panda program has shut down their want to produce entirely. It is likely any further attempt to micro-manage population growth will get like opposite result, then your incomplete formulizations predict.

          • amphiox


            Now you’re just babbling irrelevancies. And who said anything about “micro-managing” population growth?

            (Incidentally you are completely wrong about the pandas, just as you were wrong about the motivations and consequences of migration out of Olduvai Gorge)

            It is entirely possible that population growth CAN’T be prevented from increasing at an exponential rate, short of species extinction. It is possible that overpopulation pressure is the “cost of doing business” for any biological species to simply exist.

            It doesn’t change the bottom line. Expansion of any kind, whether into space or anywhere else, cannot by itself “solve” the problem of overpopulation.

            The problem of overpopulation can only be solved by ending exponential growth. This is either possible, and we will achieve it some day, or it is impossible, and we will have to live with the problem of overpopulation for the duration of our existence as a species, whether we venture into space or not.

            There are no free lunches in reality. Overpopulation pressure may simply be one of those realities that cannot be avoided, anymore than gravity. A biological law that governs the growth of all self-replicating entities.

          • Lando Goshen

            Christ didn’t invent competing West and East Christian Orthodoxy.
            When the last big Arizona volcano eruption (search: Sunset Crater Volcano) suspiciously coincided with:
            1) the length of the entire period of the Crusades
            2) displacement of Northern Tribe (Thule) environ
            3) drought in Middle East,
            makeshift repairs at the ground level couldn’t put a scratch in the desperate issue. They could not then, and nothing has changed (save computer communications and space technology), to expect any different outcome today…
            Replace heavy natural occurrence with heavy man-made modern/industry occurrence. Which is more easiest to accomplish change?–moving the minds of populations and industry to cease ingrained behavior, or incentivize moving heavy man-made industry into space? The latter is the easiest to accomplish.
            In conclusion: Blocking the sun’s input with constructed orbital arrays, that can double as solar energy capture devices…is an orbital space industry that can make substantial solution to many future earth-based problems.
            Your slanted analysis of space-based growth as having little significance on earth-based exponential growth is completely erroneous and unsubstantiated.

          • amphiox

            None of the above is even remotely relevant to my point.

            Those are all nice things to do, and wonderful benefits of space colonization. Such feats, if done, will solve many problems.

            But overpopulation will not be one of those problems they will solve.

          • amphiox

            Furthermore, we did not, in fact, “solve” population pressure problems when we left Olduvai. In fact it is pretty certain now that population pressures were NOT, in fact, the primary reason for our ancestors to migrate out of Olduvai.

            Similarly we did NOT, in fact, solve any population problems when we left Africa. Neither did Europe solve any population pressures when they colonized the Americas. The peoples of the South Pacific did not solve any population pressures when they explored and colonized new islands.

            In fact, NEVER, in all of human history, have we EVER solved population pressure problems in the long run by outward migration alone. Neither has any other species of lifeform on this planet that we know of.

            The idea that earlier waves of exploration and migration “solved” population pressures back home is a naive, ahistorical myth.

            If you are hoping for some new discovery or invention, the form of which you cannot even predict, to suddenly solve a problem that has never before been solvable, you are engaging in wishful fantasy, not science. You may as well wish for the Second Coming, for God to whisk away the excess population to heaven. Hoping for an unknown scientific breakthrough is pretty much the same thing.

          • amphiox

            Eventually, 99% of those billions who will live in close orbit colonies will not be people who emigrated there from earth, but people born in those colonies. The same will ultimately be true of every other place we colonize. Their founding populations will grow and expand and fill up the space, squeezing out the space needed for future immigration. It is virtually guaranteed that these native-born colonists will eventually come to resist and resent immigration from “outsiders”, ie earth, and will apply local political pressure to control and limit the influx. (And the space inevitably fills up even if they don’t) Meanwhile, the population of earth will continue to expand. If there is exponential growth, you cannot win that numbers game. The new living space you find from exploration will always fill up faster than your population growth rate than you can find and explore and settle new living space, leaving you back with your original overpopulation problem.

        • Fear Lancer

          Actually it will encourage the population to leave the planet. Yes there will be a significant amount of people still on the planet, but once people begin to see that Space colonization is something that can happen easily and safely with the chance of coming back if something to go wrong, unlike the way we are planning on going to Mars today, then it will encourage people to start venturing out. Think of it like how a bird treats its babies when its time to fly. It just kinda pushes the baby out of the nest and it will learn how to fly, if it doesnt…..well lol lets just hope we dont die.

    • AtomR

      In my humble opinion there should be laws in place to limit reproduction by people that have extended lives with whatever treatment will be available in the future. In the extreme if immortality is ever achieved (very unlickelly extreme) then neutering of immortals shoukd mandatory due to the overpopulation problem.

      • Kurt

        Rather I’d limit the reproduction of those with short lives. No more having 5-12 kids then dieing by 50 before the last ones are even grown. It’s incredibly selfish.

        • AtomR

          It’s selfish to die young? Anyways what I was getting at is if you’re gonna take longer to die and be healthy longer then you are going to reproduce more so that would have a negative effect on the already overpopulated planet we live in.

        • amphiox

          “Selfish” requires a deliberate choice. It isn’t selfish, for example, for Pacific Salmon to die after spawning, leaving all their offspring without parental care, because they have no choice, that’s how they are.

          And how many actually CHOOSE to die young?

      • Andrea Campbell

        There are millions of potential worlds out there that could be habitat for a larger population. What we need to do is plan for the larger population growth, and not throw away people with experience just because they are older. It is sad that doctors look at the drivers license to see your age before deciding to treat you with the best possible treatment, while reserving the best treatments for people who are younger and have not proven their worth in life.

        • AtomR

          Who’s suggesting throwing people away?

      • amphiox

        Some of the science of life extension is suggesting that there is a link between reproduction and longevity, such that long lives correlate inversely with fecundity. The resources one puts into maintaining the body to live longer are the same resources one must use to produce offspring, and there’s only so much to go around.

        Which is to say that the method of life extension ultimately used (if it ever is discovered) is likely to automatically come with reduction in fertility.

        An immortal or very long lived individual will likely also have less psychology impetus for having children.

        • AtomR

          I am immortal :O

    • J. Fischer

      You presume that we’ll continue reproducing at the same rate as now.

      Increasing the standard of living for all would reduce the birth rate. If a longer life expectancy could translate to healthy childbearing in later years, that same longer life would ease the subconscious pressure to ‘leave a legacy’ in the form of offspring, so again, fewer children born. Quality over quantity.

    • amphiox

      Today, if you earn a minimum wage salary in a first world country, you live with a level of luxury greater than that enjoyed by Egyptian pharoahs and Persian Kings. Even in the third world virtually everyone lives better than the common people of past eras. Everything in human history that begins as the exclusive purview of the wealthy eventually spreads until most if not everyone, has it.

      Life extension technology will begin being available only to the rich, but eventually, most, if not all, humans will get access to it, so long as the species doesn’t drive itself to extinction first. Of course by that time, the rich will have some other new luxury toy. (Maybe they’ll be turning themselves into energy beings or something).

  • Jamie Gilbert

    Science will never stop trying, but your theories have a direct effect on everyone. Extending the lives of humans without equal balance with the atmosphere,land,water, wildlife, vegetation or etc. will ultimately lead us to our own self created demise. Let me sound as corny as you view it, but it is this simple…..our world is self destructing because of our selfish, let’s make it easier on us, how great am I attitudes. All we need is the simplicity of it all. Trust in God, do his will-preach his goodness and love….work your soil, teach your children, work with others and put yourself in their shoes that moment you want to explode. Work together for a better tomorrow. I say forget this bs, I’m going to heaven when I’m done here & let the bs fall right off my shoulder, BUT I want more! More New friends that feel like you’ve known them forever, more voices in our heavenly choir and less tears in my father’s eyes when he sees all the lost he created turn their faces from him for “this world.” She lived this long because that was her journey, just like we’re here because God made Adam and Eve….Good luck figuring out my God’s science of it all and good luck to all who try to steer the world to believe your way is right not His!

    • Jamie Gilbert

      That’s what I figured…..

    • Chris Sawyer

      I figure this world needs to get a lot more crowded before we actually learn to get along. For me, this existence ain’t all that and a bag of chips. I tried to leave before my time, wasn’t possible or in His plan. I find it impossible to ‘see’ how great life on Earth could be if we cared for one another instead of trying to ‘protect’ ourselves. I’ve found a source of protection I can’t explain or force my will upon. “May the force be with you”. Everything that happens is first a thought. Selfishness and self centered living is the root of all our problems on Earth

  • Getanda Ondieki Getanda

    wow! maybe come up with longevity studies to research on this

  • Mary Ciulla

    Unless this woman’s body was donated, why would an autopsy be done on a 115 year old person. It would be a waste of money unless the body was there for research purposes. Just wondering why.

    • rsanchez1

      It was donated.

  • Rainer Götz

    Interesting idea, indeed, the question is: Will the ‘old’/grown-up body accept the fresh/’baby’ blood?

    Inasmuch the stem cell dividing process or to be precise the number how often a cell can divide, like written above, is crucial, maybe the analysis of the procedure by itself, would reveal some possibilities of manipulating. I wonder if it is possible to just slow down the process…

  • John F Remillard

    Simple arithmetic tells us that for our species to survive and thrive we must dedicate ourselves to develop whatever it takes to propagate the planets, moons, asteroids, and man-made space-stations, etc.

    • Emkay

      1. breed specimens of (a plant, animal, etc.) by natural processes from the parent stock.
      “try propagating your own houseplants from cuttings”
      synonyms: breed, grow, cultivate More
      (of a plant, animal, etc.) reproduce by natural processes.
      “the plant propagates freely from stem cuttings”
      synonyms: reproduce, multiply, proliferate, increase, spread, self-seed, self-sow More
      2. spread and promote (an idea, theory, etc.) widely.
      “the French propagated the idea that the English were violent and gluttonous drunkards”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Glenn Jones

    Does this research have any implications for those who are regular blood donors? Could they be giving away their prospects for a longer life?

    • Emkay

      Of course they are!… our primal ancestors NEVER gave blood and certainly the thousands that died from ‘bloodletting in the Dark Ages did not volunteer to ‘bleed..The concept of allowing 15 to 20 percent of your blood to be taken away is not only foolish, it is dangerous to your health…

      My grandfather was required by his employer to be part of the blood donor team, which gave blood every 6 months. After several years of this activity, the bodies signals to start-stop reproducing the lost cells (after donation) failed to stop production of his white cells?…the resulting ‘leukemia killed him in three months… Knowing this, I would only give my blood to a close family relative.

    • facefault

      There’s no evidence that more frequent blood donation shortens telomeres, but it’s possible.

      Emkay’s response is a bit off. The evidence of a link between blood donation and leukemia is weak. The risks of giving blood are very low relative to the number of lives blood donation saves.

  • Bill

    We knew about telemeres and their role in cell death decades ago, how is this new?

  • mbpradas

    Medicine manufacturers are looking for new ideas to sell and gain more money. Thanks to Researchers to keep the Corporate happy.

  • amandaeallen

    We must find ways to extend life…. To make travel to other planets possible, I think within 200 years, we will have humans living to 200 years of age….

    • Jason Hinchliffe

      Well you know 160 is the new 120.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Paul Goedicke

    There are many benefits of living longer – over population seems to be self correcting – look at the US, Japan, and Europe reproduction rates. 3rd world countries birth rates should also drop as the women become more in control of their reproduction choices.
    It has always been true that the more intelligent you are, the more likely you will maintain good health (baring bad genes or an accident.) Think what 200 or 300 years of experience would do for the ability to judge what works and what is just a passing fancy.
    Further space travel becomes much more practical if you have a multi-hundred year life expectancy. If it took 80 years to get to the nearest star system and you had a multi-hundred year life expectancy that would be much like the early explores who’s journeys took years to complete.
    Science will march on – both to the benefit and detriment of society. Those who have won the IQ gene lottery are always going to be ahead of those who did not or are just lazy.
    Starvation is a sign mostly of too high of a reproduction rate in today’s world (or war imposed upon them from the outside.) Neither problem will be solved my more money; but can be solved by better education.

  • Ceron Christie

    Wonder if ethnicity changes findings

  • Rico Rey Bulan Jr.

    Now that we have a proximate idea of what causes longevity, I pose this question: which type of cells die first at the moment of natural death? Brain cells? Blood cells? Lung cells? Answering this question, I believe, might help us solve the mystery of death.

    My hypothesis is that when a vital organ shuts down, the rest will automatically follow. The first organ to die will stop functioning which would lead to complications or render other dependent organs incapable of further functioning themselves. This shutting down would continue very much like the domino effect and would be the actual cause of death.


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