The Secret to Eternal Youth Unlocked?

Whether it's a good idea or not, many people fantasize about the idea of being able to live forever. While scientists haven't been shying away from the problem, progress has been slow.

Now, a team of researchers based at Umeå University in Sweden has pinpointed a protein which is vital in autophagy—the process through which cells break down to recycle themselves when they're approaching the end of their life.

Thing is, scientists have long known that increasing the rate of autophagy leads to longevity; they just haven't known how to directly simulate the process. Now, in experiments on mice, the protein SNX18 has been used to accelerate the process, keeping the rodents alive longer. Yes, really.

Previously, research has focused on the role of telomerase—an enzyme that adds DNA sequence repeats at the end of chromosomes—in aging, but progress with the resulting science has been slow. In combination with a method that stimulates autophagy, though,we may have a dream combination; we could finally have ourselves something that really could work.

OK, so, there's one large caveat: none of these studies have ever been performed in humans. Regardless, there's no doubt that the key to eternal life lies in fine-tuning the body at a cellular level—and it's clearly possible.

Certainly, the science and technology isn't quite ready for us to live forever—but plenty of people are convinced that the first eternal human being is probably already alive. Whether it's a good idea? That's still up for dicussion. [UMEA via Science Daily; Image: TORIMBC]