Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Immortality


Life stress resulting from early-life experiences and domestic stress is linked with shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL), but evidence on employment-related stress is scarce. We explored whether unemployment in early adulthood is associated with shorter LTL, a potential biomarker of premature aging.

Concepts: Death, Senescence, Biology, Cell division, Telomerase, Telomere, Immortality


Leucocyte telomere length (LTL) shortening is associated with cardiovascular ischemic events and mortality in humans, but data on its association with subclinical atherosclerosis are scarce. Whether the incidence and severity of subclinical atherosclerosis are associated with the abundance of critically short telomeres, a major trigger of cellular senescence, remains unknown.

Concepts: Death, Senescence, Cell division, Radical, Telomerase, Telomere, Maximum life span, Immortality


Psychological stress is suggested to accelerate the rate of biological aging. We investigated whether work-related exhaustion, an indicator of prolonged work stress, is associated with accelerated biological aging, as indicated by shorter leukocyte telomeres, that is, the DNA-protein complexes that cap chromosomal ends in cells.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Senescence, Cell division, Telomerase, Telomere, Acceleration, Immortality


Food is medicine and vice versa. In Hindu and Ayurvedic medicine, and among human cultures of the Indian subcontinent in general, the perception of the food-medicine continuum is especially well established. The preparation of the exhilarating, gold-coloured Soma, Amrita or Ambrosia, the elixir and food of the ‘immortals’ - the Hindu pantheon -, by the ancient Indo-Aryans, is described in the Rigveda in poetic hymns. Different theories regarding the botanical identity of Soma circulate, but no pharmacologically and historically convincing theory exists to date.

Concepts: Indian subcontinent, Soma, Hinduism, Immortality, Vedas, Indra, Sanskrit words and phrases, Hindu mythology


Telomere extension has been proposed as a means to improve cell culture and tissue engineering and to treat disease. However, telomere extension by nonviral, nonintegrating methods remains inefficient. Here we report that delivery of modified mRNA encoding TERT to human fibroblasts and myoblasts increases telomerase activity transiently (24-48 h) and rapidly extends telomeres, after which telomeres resume shortening. Three successive transfections over a 4 d period extended telomeres up to 0.9 kb in a cell type-specific manner in fibroblasts and myoblasts and conferred an additional 28 ± 1.5 and 3.4 ± 0.4 population doublings (PD), respectively. Proliferative capacity increased in a dose-dependent manner. The second and third transfections had less effect on proliferative capacity than the first, revealing a refractory period. However, the refractory period was transient as a later fourth transfection increased fibroblast proliferative capacity by an additional 15.2 ± 1.1 PD, similar to the first transfection. Overall, these treatments led to an increase in absolute cell number of more than 10(12)-fold. Notably, unlike immortalized cells, all treated cell populations eventually stopped increasing in number and expressed senescence markers to the same extent as untreated cells. This rapid method of extending telomeres and increasing cell proliferative capacity without risk of insertional mutagenesis should have broad utility in disease modeling, drug screening, and regenerative medicine.-Ramunas, J., Yakubov, E., Brady, J. J., Corbel, S. Y., Holbrook, C., Brandt, M., Stein, J., Santiago, J. G., Cooke, J. P., Blau, H. M. Transient delivery of modified mRNA encoding TERT rapidly extends telomeres in human cells.

Concepts: DNA, Senescence, Cell division, DNA replication, Telomerase, Telomere, Transfection, Immortality


The potential to reverse aging has long been a tantalizing thought, but has equally been considered mere utopia. Recently, the spotlights have turned to senescent cells as being a culprit for aging. Can these cells be therapeutically eliminated? When so? And is this even safe? Recent developments in the tool box to study senescence have made it possible to begin addressing these questions. It will be especially relevant to identify how senescence impairs tissue rejuvenation and to prospectively design compounds that can both target senescence and stimulate rejuvenation in a safe manner. This review argues that to fulfill this niche, cell-penetrating peptides may provide promising therapeutics. As a candidate approach, the author also highlights the potential of targeting individual FOXO signaling pathways to combat senescence and stimulate tissue rejuventaion.

Concepts: Death, Senescence, Gerontology, Telomere, Ageing, Aging, Maximum life span, Immortality


Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.

Concepts: Embryo, Developmental biology, Religion, Buddhism, Christianity, Soul, Jainism, Immortality


Five studies tested the effects that soul beliefs have on reactions to end-of-the-world scenarios. In Studies 1 and 2, participants who firmly believe in an immortal soul showed less resistance to an article predicting the end of humanity than those without such belief. However, in Studies 3 to 5, thoughts of symbolic immortality made soul believers more resistant to scientific evidence predicting the end of humanity. These results suggest that belief in an immortal soul provides psychological protection against the threat of humanity’s demise that does not hold for symbolic immortality beliefs.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Critical thinking, Cognition, Philosophy of mind, Mind, Soul, Immortality


Telomere maintenance protects the cell against genome instability and senescence. Accelerated telomere attrition is a characteristic of premature aging syndromes including Dyskeratosis congenita (DC). Mutations in hRTEL1 are associated with a severe form of DC called Hoyeraal-Hreidarsson syndrome (HHS). HHS patients carry short telomeres and HHS cells display telomere damage. Here we investigated how hRTEL1 contributes to telomere maintenance in human primary as well as tumor cells. Transient depletion of hRTEL1 resulted in rapid telomere shortening only in the context of telomerase-positive cells with very long telomeres and high levels of telomerase. The effect of hRTEL1 on telomere length is telomerase dependent without impacting telomerase biogenesis or targeting of the enzyme to telomeres. Instead, RTEL1 depletion led to a decrease in both G-overhang content and POT1 association with telomeres with limited telomere uncapping. Strikingly, overexpression of POT1 restored telomere length but not the overhang, demonstrating that G-overhang loss is the primary defect caused by RTEL1 depletion. We propose that hRTEL1 contributes to the maintenance of long telomeres by preserving long G-overhangs, thereby facilitating POT1 binding and elongation by telomerase.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Senescence, Cell division, DNA replication, Telomerase, Telomere, Immortality


Cancer cells activate telomere maintenance mechanisms (TMMs) to bypass replicative senescence and achieve immortality by either upregulating telomerase or promoting homology-directed repair (HDR) at chromosome ends to maintain telomere length, the latter being referred to as ALT (Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres). In yeast telomerase mutants, the HDR-based repair of telomeres leads to the generation of ‘survivors’ that escape senescence and divide indefinitely. So far, yeast has proven to provide an accurate model to study the generation and maintenance of telomeres via HDR. Recently, it has been established that up-regulation of the lncRNA, TERRA (telomeric repeat-containing RNA), is a novel hallmark of ALT cells. Moreover, RNA-DNA hybrids are thought to trigger HDR at telomeres in ALT cells to maintain telomere length and function. Here we show that, also in established yeast type II survivors, TERRA levels are increased in an analogous manner to human ALT cells. The elevated TERRA levels are independent of yeast-specific subtelomeric structures, i.e. the presence or absence of Y' repetitive elements. Furthermore, we show that RNase H1 overexpression, which degrades the RNA moiety in RNA-DNA hybrids, impairs the growth of yeast survivors. We suggest that even in terms of TERRA regulation, yeast survivors serve as an accurate model that recapitulates many key features of human ALT cells.

Concepts: DNA, Senescence, Cell division, Yeast, DNA replication, Telomerase, Telomere, Immortality