Scientists are exploring whether humans might one day live as long as many lobsters, who have been known to reach 140 years old.
Like the majority of species on our planet, humans grow, develop and repair damage to their bodies until a certain stage in adulthood.
From that point, the human body gradually loses its ability to repair itself and begins to accumulate damage.
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Lobsters, however, do not die from old age – they're either served up as Surf 'n' Turf for our pleasure or they perish from exhaustion during the process of moulting when they replace their shell as they grow bigger – with the eldest of the crustacean creatures capable of weighing 9kg.
The secret behind lobsters' incredible lifespans is the 'telomerase' enzyme found in many of their cells.
Known as the 'immortality enzyme', telomerase increases the number of divisions a cell can make before it dies or becomes inactive – the point when human bodies begin to break down and ultimately stop functioning.
Our bodies only have active telomerase in certain cells, most notably stem cells, which can keep renewing themselves over significantly long periods – but other cells in our bodies have a much shorter lifespan.
The natural assumption, therefore, is the key to a longer life for ourselves and slowing down of the biological clock is finding some manner of increasing the number of cells in our body that contain telomerase.
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But, frustratingly for humans, it has been discovered that there is a connection between telomerase activity and cancer, with Dr Lindsay Wu, head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales' Medicine & Health department, pointing out: "My main reason for being sceptical of this strategy is that telomerase is not normally expressed in most adult cells, but it's often 'turned on' in cancer cells, helping maintain the immortality of cancer."
Research has been found that cancer cells, unlike normal adult cells, often activate the telomerase enzyme.
That complex relationship, therefore, must be understood better before telomerase could ever be potentially used as a method for humans to match the life expectancy rates of lobsters.
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