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I've heard of Henrietta Lacks. As a result of a genetic mutation, her cells never died. I've heard/read that overtime, our cells stop multiplying as much, (as an effect of aging). Why? Why do we age? Why do cells eventually die? What causes our bodies to degenerate? It is encoded for in our genes? If we treated our bodies in the highest regard, accounted for accurate diet and sleep, with the introduction of genetic engineering, could everlasting life be possible?

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Henrietta Lacks had cervical cancer, and her cancerous cells somehow survived in culture (I don't know if this was due to proper handling by the lab staff or otherwise). – Alexandria Feb 1 '13 at 8:27
up vote 2 down vote accepted

We refer to the number of times the cells of an organism can possibly divide as the Hayflick limit for that organism. The Hayflick limit serves as a theoretical life span, because telomeres (on the ends of chromosomes) get slightly shorter with each round of division, until they are gone completely. Telomeres are put on the ends of chromosomes by the enzyme telomerase, which is abundant in infants (who are growing and undergoing rapid mitotic divisions) but bodily abundance of the enzyme quickly diminishes with age. Without telomeres, our actual chromosomes would shorten in length during each round of division -- essentially, this is what happens after the telomeres are eroded away at in the later years of life. The Hayflick limit for humans is given to be 120 years -- with perfect self-care, 120 years of life is possible.

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Nice answer. Do you have a reference for the 120 years claim? – terdon Feb 1 '13 at 10:18

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