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Slowing the clock

Some of our cells are immortal and some die with us. Tom Wilkie reports on how understanding the difference may help us slow down ageing

By Tom Wilkie   April 1999

In Petronius’s satyricon, old age is portrayed as a terrible thing. Deiphobe, the Sibyl of Cumae, hangs from the roof of her cave, withered, ancient and shrunken. Apollo has granted her wish to live for as many years as she holds grains of sand in her hand. But when asked what she now most desired in the world, she replies: “I desire only death.” She had asked for eternal life, not eternal youth.

Now, more than 2,000 years later, modern science may be opening the way to refuting the wisdom of the classical writers. According to Tom Kirkwood, human ageing…

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