After almost twenty years in office and 70 years on earth, Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, is hoping his country can come together to overcome one last hurdle. He needs the country’s scientists to find him the fountain of youth.
In a speech to students of the newly dedicated Nazarbayev University, a new education and research institution in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the president made clear that he is looking to the researchers to provide him with eternal life, says The Guardian:
The 70-year-old leader stressed in a speech that a new scientific research institute in the capital Astana should study “rejuvenation of the organism,” as well as “the human genome, production of human tissue and creation of gene-based medicines”.
Of course, who wouldn’t want to live forever when they have a country that they rule–for life. He said back in October that he would be the country’s president until at least 2020 if his old bones can take it, says The Guardian:
“Maybe, then, you’ll offer me an elixir of youth and energy – maybe you have such potions in Korea … I’m willing to go on until 2020, just find me an elixir.”
For the tiny flatworm, regeneration of missing body parts is a piece of cake. Someone chopped its head off? No problem! It grows a brand new one in about seven days, complete with a spanking new brain with all the right circuits and connections. (As for the chopped-off head, it just grows a new body.)
This amazing ability of the flatworm to regrow a missing head and to produce a brain on demand has now been traced back to a key gene, researchers report in a PloS Genetics study. The identification of the gene is exciting news for scientists who wonder if humans, too, can one day learn to regenerate missing body parts.
The Register reports that the discovery of the “smed-prep” gene unlocks the mechanisms by which the hard-to-kill Planarian flatworms grow new muscle, gut, and brain cells:
Even more importantly, it seems that the information contained in smed-prep also makes the new cells appear in the right place and organize themselves into working structures – as opposed to nonfunctional blobs of protoplasm.
Lead researcher Aziz Aboobaker describes the worm’s regenerative superpowers to the BBC:
It’s official: the only thing certain in this world is taxes. That’s because death, for a tiny sea creature, is not inevitable. Turritopsis nutricul, a jellyfish-like hydrazoan, is the only animal known to be potentially immortal.
Once it reaches sexual maturity, Turritopsis looks like a tiny, transparent, many-tentacled parachute (only about 5mm in diameter) that floats freely in warm ocean waters. But when times get tough, Turritopsis can turn into a blob, anchor itself to a surface, and undergo a sort of reverse methamorphosis back to its youthful form as a stalk-like polyp. That’s like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar. Scientists, who first described this phenomenon [pdf] in the 1990s, believe Turritopsis can repeat its life cycle indefinitely.