Aging seems to be an inevitable part of life. Practically all species develop and fix damages to their organisms until a certain period in adult life. Following this, the body no more has the previous capability of fixing itself and gradually starts to collect damage. However, this doesn’t seem to refer to lobsters – large marine crustaceans. They go on growing throughout their very long lives—the oldest animals had a weight of over 9 kg, with ages of up to 140 years.
The causes of lobsters’ death are not associated with old age. In lieu, they end up at restaurants or die from getting exhausted during molting—this is the process where lobsters renew their shells because of their growing bodies.
To bring light to why lobsters live so long, it is reasonable to first figure out the process of ageing. Our bodies consist of cells having DNA data — the generic code which makes our organisms conduct biological functions. DNA strands themselves are gathered into structures called “chrοmosome.” Each of them has telοmeres, which safeguard the ends of the DNA strands from being harmed. Without telomeres, the DNA can easily be harmed and could alter the code, which, in its turn, can affect the ability of a cell to function in a duly way.
Each cell in our organisms features a bounded lifespan and must regenerate by splitting into 2 more cells. Prior to division, the cell must duplicate its DNA, accordingly, 2 duplicates of DNA are available – one for each cell. Every time the DNA is duplicated, the telomeres’ size is getting shorter.
The length of the telomeres is called a “biological clock” that defines how many times a cell can spit up. As the human is getting old, the telomere left is too small and the DNA is vulnerable to adverse impact. At this moment the cell stops splitting, and either ruins itself or becomes passive. As humans are aging, many cells end up at this stage, meaning that our bodies accumulate “damages” and as result, stop functioning properly.
Lobsters feature an incredibly long lifespan because they have telomerases in almost all of their cells. Telοmerase renews the length of telοmeres, boosting the number of splits a cell can carry out before it destroys itself. Due to this factor cells continue splitting up and animals continue growing and fixing their bodies—this is the secret to their life longevity.
If considering human organisms, they only have active telomerase in particular cells, for instance, stem cells, which can keep regenerating themselves for a very long time.
Having unveiled the secret of lobster’s long lifespan, we may put the following question: could people apply telomerases to stop bioclocks and obtain immortality? Well, telomerase therapy is not expected anytime soon—there is a link between telοmerase and cancerous tumors.
Indeed, telοmerase is not properly expressed in most cells of a person. But it often “switches on” cancer cells, thus maintaining the ‘immortality’ of cancer, as was stated by scientists. Cancer cells often stir up the telοmerase which keeps fixing their DNA and allows them to split up many times.
The entangled connection between telomeres, old age, and cancer requires follow-up studies to better understood how telomerase could be applied in medicine and is this option possible at all.