Key to Immortality Discovered in Worms?

Reports are controversially claiming that scientists may have discovered the key to immortality in the form of an asexual flatworm.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal recently published an article with findings that stated planarian worms can maintain DNA in their original state when regenerating. The planarian worms, also known as flatworms, have a process of regeneration that may also provide the possibility of immortality, according to Reuters.

Aziz Aboobaker, a leading researcher in the study of the worms conducted at Britain's University of Nottingham, has claimed that some predictions of immortality have been satisfied in the study.

"Our data satisfy one of the predictions about what it would take for an animal to be potentially immortal," Aboobaker said. "The next goals for us are to understand the mechanisms in more detail and to understand more about how you evolve an immortal animal."

Aboobaker and his team studied two different types of flatworms, asexual beings that can divide themselves and those that sexually reproduce. Each type of worm was able to regenerate in a limitless way.

New skin, muscles and brains were generated by both types of worms, according to Aboobaker. However, an enzyme found in the asexual worms seemed to hint at the possibility of immortality.

While most sexual reproducing organisms contain the enzyme in their earlier developmental stages, asexual worms have increased the use of the enzyme during their regeneration process, Reuters reported. Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council that helped fund the study, said the findings could have a major impact in the process of aging for human beings.

"(The study) contributes significantly to our fundamental understanding of some of the processes involved in ageing," Kell said in a Reuters report. "(It) builds strong foundations for improving health and potentially longevity in other organisms, including humans."