Getting older isn’t fun, lots of things stop working while the rest of you just gets really slow.
It’s all thanks to our body’s ability to regenerate new cells, or rather lack there of as we get older.
Sea urchins don’t have this problem. They can regrow lost limbs, live for over 100 years and reproduce at 80 like they’re actually 21.
Why? Because they don’t age, or at least not in the way that we do. They don’t have age-based illnesses, nor do their cells stop regenerating.
Sea urchins also, rather oddly, share a close genetic bond with humans which has led to some scientists suggesting that if we can crack the key to a sea urchin’s long life we too can stop ageing.
MDI Biological Laboratory Associate Professor James A. Coffman has been studying the regenerative capacity of these remarkable creatures and found something which didn’t make sense.
Professor Coffman examined in particular three different species of sea urchin, each with a starkly different life expectancy.
While one lived to 100, the second would only live to around 50 while the third and final species only had a life expectancy of around four years.
What Coffman was expecting to find was that each would age at very different speeds.
Instead what he found was the none of them aged, at all. Instead their respective ability to regenerate was as prevalent at the end of their lives as it was at the beginning.
What this suggests is that there is something else, some hidden trigger which is telling sea urchins that their life is coming to a close.
The next step for Coffman and his team is to find out what that is, and in learning more about it hopefully find a way of turning this ‘trigger’ off in humans as well.