Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rock Lobster

In my continuing search for the elusive Übermensch my thoughts often return to the sea. In those briny depths live a great many creatures that could be the progenitors of some bold new master race; the honorable Mantis Shrimp, the wise Octopus, the steadfast Barnacle even the Comb Jelly, who spends it's solitary existence contemplating the cold, inky darkness of the Challenger Deep. These are all organisms that, with some bio-engineering, could rise up and conquer the Earth, maybe even the stars themselves.

Except for dolphins, they're all douche bags.

Granted, the title of "Supreme Race and Masters Over All The Earth" are some serious shoes to fill. We can't let any old starfish claim this privilege and ab
dicate the throne when things heat up. What we need is a wise creature with years of experience. Nay, decades. Centuries.

We need Homarus americanus, the American Lobster.

At first glance the common lobster doesn't look like it's up to the task of world domination. It has a crippling disadvantage when faced with it's two greatest enemies: rubber bands and hot water. Surely such weakness brings dishonor to it's name and disqualifies it for a chance at being the Übermensch. Right?

Wrong. What the lobster lacks in fortitude and general intelligence it makes up for in sheer longevity.

First, we need to understand why animals die of o
ld age. Every time an animal's cell replicates it must copy it's DNA. Strands of DNA are "capped" with nucleotides called Telomere. Essentially, Telomere keeps the DNA strand from "unraveling" and losing it's precious genetic information during the act of replication (called mitosis). Therein lies the fatal flaw called the Hayflick Limit, with every replication the region of telomere gets shorter and shorter, like a roll of bubble tape slowly getting chewed to nonexistence. When the telomere runs out, the cell stops replicating, entering a period of senescence where it will eventually die off, never to share it's genetic material with a younger generation ever again.

A sorry state of affairs to be sure. But some cells manage to resist this biological death sentence and keep replicating ad infinitum to their tiny heart's content. Unfortunately these cells are more often then not cancer and this will not do.

We need a creature that can replicate it's cells forever, but we can't let it's cells conspire to kill it from the inside out. Again, we need the lobster. O
nly the lobster offers an elegant solution to the problem of the Hayflick limit: the enzyme telomerase. The enzyme's function is deceptively simple: it restores the telomere at the end of it's chromosomes, in turn allowing it's cells to replicate without limit, in turn allowing the lobster to essentially live forever.

Some lobsters have been captured and held in captivity who's age has been estimated to be over a hundred years old, such as George the lobster who lived in the City Crab and Seafood Restaurant in New York from December 2008 to January 2009. When was he estimated to have been born? 1869. This makes him well over one hundred and fifty years old, probably more since it's 2012 and we assume George is still alive down there in the murky depths (and I am most certainly going to assume that).

Plus, lobsters don't get decrepit with age. Research suggests that lobsters don't slow down, weaken or lose fertility as they get older. In fact, they become more fertile the longer they live. Lobsters are in essence, crunchy little dragons of the sea
in this regard. Or Highlanders. Barring accident, injury or disease Lobsters are effectively immortal, able to pass their wisdom down their ever expanding family tree and grow to truly immense proportions, able to crush entire cities with their enormous claws. Now that's an Übermensch.

Plus, in a little quirk of genetics, one out of every two million lobsters produce an excessive amount of a certain protien which interacts with a red carotenoid in their shells to form a molecular complex called crustacyanin, giving them a festive blue color.


mom said...

It really makes me hungry for a lobster roll.

Shadgrimgrvy said...

You can't eat our undersea allies! It's unethical!

Cows are still fine though.

Bill Graham, LAc said...

Hey - people make telomerase too! Our fetal stem cells are immortal, and not just because the WingNuts insist that we keep them frozen: can't grow 'em, can't throw 'em. After birth our stem cells produce not-quite enough telomerase for immortality, and our white blood cells can produce some.

Scientists - especially a guy named Dr. Bill Andrews of Sierra Sciences Corp (motto: Cure Aging or Die Trying!) have found that we can stimulate Telomerase production in the rest of our cells. We're at about 6% of what we need for chromosomal immortality.

Check out my blog - and/or to get in on the action.

Oh, you forgot to mention that smoking, drinking and couch-potatoing hastens the loss of telomeres. Our lobster friends (wait...friends don't eat friends do they?) are not privvy to these vices. Smokes don't stay lit under water, the claws that can open any bottle of booze tend to shatter the neck and the elixir gets too diluted before that hideous mug can slurp any in, and Rocky don't have no fridge.

So juice your telomeres with Product B. IT's made with Ancient Chinese Secret. No, really.

Shadgrimgrvy said...

I completely forgot about stem cells!

Also, I hope Sierra Sciences can stimulate some serious Telomerase production in the future, immortality would be a growth industry literally and figuratively. Just one word of caution, I've played enough cheesy sci-fi games to know what happens when genetic research companies dabble in the "natural order of things". I'm not suggesting anything rash here, like, oh, zombies or giant spiders, I'm just saying...well, be careful.

Learn from Umbrella's mistakes.

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