Not the easiest title to very contentious issues- preventing ageing, becoming immortal, regenerating ourselves and looking like 28 forever.
Cells in the human body come in a variety of types, there are about 206, such as skin cells, kidney cells, liver cells, bone cells and within these categories (skin, kidney, liver, bone) there are subgroups of cells.
For instance, in skin there are epithelial such as keratinocytes, melanocytes and connective cells such as fibroblasts. About 206 types of cells. Any of which can become aberrant and tumorous. That is part of the reason we do not have a one fix for cancer, which cell is cancerous has to be found, nor one check for cancer as each type of cancer appears in a different part of the body.
We cannot detect a cancer until there are about 1 gram of cells, which constitutes about 109 cells, which is a 1 with 9 zeros after it- a billion cells. There are 206 types of cells, but there are many cells of each of these types. We humans are composed of about 1013 cells, a one with 13 zeros, 10 trillion cells. So finding the correct cancer and detecting it early is not easy. If it was, we would have cured it ages ago.
However, what most people do not know is that cancers are probably changes in stem cells. There are about 206 types of cells in the body. These tend to be functional cells, the cells that do something, move oxygen, filter, waste, pump blood, digest food. While they do the stuff of life, the activities that keep us in what is called homeostasis, they get worn out by their work (as do we!) and can go through one of two possibilities, regeneration or death. On the whole they die. They are replaced by their other cells. These cells develop into the type of cell they are replacing, do their job, get worn out and die. All over the body this is happening. While you are reading this about 40 million cells in your body have died (about 60 billion cells die per day). About 2,800,000 red blood cells die per second! They have to be replaced.
Stem cells are the cells that replace the worn out functional end cells, or terminal cells. Stem cells are the feeder cells. They don’t do the functions, the activities of the body. What they do is produce under-developed cells into the areas that need replacing. Blood stem cells (found in bone marrow) feed the appropriate number of cells into the various blood cell types. The cells develop through a number of cell divisions to become all the cell types of blood, red blood cells (erythrocytes), granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils), monocytes (macrophages), leukocytes (T cells and B cells) and platelets (thrombocytes). And that is just the cells of the blood. There are stem cells whose daughter cells make all the types of cells of the liver. There are stem cells whose daughters make most of the skin cells.
Stem cells live their lives as producers of cells that go on to produce more cells that actually do things. Stem cells are the producers of potential activities, but do nothing apart from produce cells that go on to realise their potential. Stem cells tend to have names such as Somatic Multipotent Cells or Embryonic Pluripotent Cells. These names describe the potential of the cells they give birth to.
Multipotent are stem cells such as the blood stem cells described above. They can give birth to daughter cells that can become different types of blood cells, but they don’t become muscle or skin or liver cells.
Pluripotent stem cells have more potential. The daughter cells can become all the types of cells of the body, all 206 types. But pluripotent cells are more primitive. They exist only in the first few days of life (days 5-14 post conception, post fertilisation). Very soon, the embryo pluripotent stem cells become more restricted. They become multipotent. They make daughters in one compartment of the body, the skin, the bone, the muscle, the liver.
This is the basis of life. Lots of potential and lots of realisation. Some cells have the potential, but do nothing much apart from give birth to cell that will do lots. Some cells do lots, but die.
Cancer is when the terminal cells, the functional cells, refuse to die and start to have the characteristics of earlier, less developed cells; lots of potential but no actualisation. In fact, we grade cancers by how ‘underdeveloped’ the cells are, how backwards they have gone in what they do. We call the development of mature features, the development of being functional ‘differentiation’. Stem cells and cancer cells are less differentiated, have become less different, undifferentiated.
We can live with potential, what we could have been, or we can live with realising our potential!
But being alive is being mortal.
‘And the clock waits so patiently on your song’.
At the moment there are some duff anti-ageing ‘research’. Some of it is being done by people who do not have much if any biology background (they are hiding that). They are the equivalent of an evangelical preacher who acts live The Prophet. There are a lot of them around talking nonsense, but saying what people want to hear. They have some rich backers. Because you have made a fortune in oil or tyre manufacture does not make you a genius.
We have a programme, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where people that have made money take a bet on other people’s money making ideas. It is a bet. They talk as if the people asking for cash input are stupid, but given that many of the panellists (the Dragons) have backed losers in their time, the crystal ball of predictions is as accurate for them as for the rest of us. Given that we have finally realised that economists are on the same level as crystal ball gazers, we might realise that rich people are not necessarily the font of all knowledge. As they have made money they wish to be immortal. Immortality, in humans, is a sign of primitiveness; lots of potential, but no differentiation, no actualisation.
Realise your potential and die. Please. Future generations do not want these people to live forever. They don’t want any of us around forever. They want vital alive people. People born with potential and realising it. Not people scared to move just in case they are run over by a truck or smile just in case they get a wrinkle.
Our job on this planet is to realise our own potential, the amazing things we can do. We can all do crap primitive stuff like killing people and destroying things. That is what children do. Destruction. Realising your potential is becoming adult, creative, growing up, caring. So please realise your potentials and help all people to realise theirs.
And then leave.