It is currently being widely reported that flatworms hold the key to immortality. True enough, they do have an astonishing ability to survive and regenerate even if something terrible happens, like being cut into pieces by a scientist at the University of Nottingham. This has many people excited at the prospect that we can harness the power of the worm in order to live forever. But we won’t.
The immortality-seekers’ idea is this: the cells in our human bodies can only replicate a certain number of times before the bits which protect our DNA (called telomeres) become frayed. The resulting unreliability in the replication process is thought to be a crucial part of what causes ageing. Flatworms, on the other hand, use an enzyme called telomerase to protect their telomeres, so their cells can replicate indefinitely. All we have to do is learn how to perform this trick for ourselves and we too will be immune to the ravages of time.