Can We Become Immortal?

Learn about the person behind the science, and the discoveries of aging within biological research.

| January 2018

  • Biology is shedding new light on the process of aging among species, and ways to improve our quality of life.
    Photo by Getty Images/Paul Burns
  • We Are All Stardust Conversations with Stefan Klein
    Photo by The Experiment Publishing

We Are All Stardust (Expermiment Publishing, 2015) reveals the voices, stories, and inspirations behind paradigm-changing discoveries, shedding light on the mysteries of existence that we all wonder about from love and beauty to justice and pain.This fascinating collection brings you the stories behind the world's top scientists—and in doing so discloses to us how closely the science that has shaped our lives intertwines with their own—in and out of the lab.

Molecular Biologist
Elizabeth Blackburn
On Aging

Aging seems to be one of the unpleasant facts of life—though the sixteenth-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne didn’t think so. He wrote, “To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular,” granted to only a lucky few in Montaigne’s violent and plague-stricken time.

Today scientists question whether our physical and mental decline is really inevitable. Elizabeth Blackburn is among the pioneers of that research. Born in a small, remote city in Tasmania in 1948, the second of seven children, she studied biochemistry at Cambridge. She went on to investigate the genetic mechanisms of aging. For that work, she received the Nobel Prize in 2009.

In her lab at the University of California, San Francisco, she talks about her discoveries as enthusiastically as if she had just made them. At those moments, you sense behind Blackburn’s friendliness and sense of humor a formidable tenacity. Her gently uncompromising character has not only advanced her career; it also led to her dismissal from President Bush’s council on bioethics in 2004.

They’re marvelous creatures. They can reproduce asexually by simply doubling themselves. Yet they have seven sexes that mate in pairs. And occasionally even three ciliates join to breed. That makes you wonder why we’re content to be women or men— especially since ciliates, regardless of sex, have a choice of seven different types of mating. That’s wild! How can anyone not love those organisms?

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