As per my understanding of biology, cells (and ultimately humans) die because they are programmed to die, i.e. they secrete enzymes to destroy the cell after a specific time period. For e.g. Caspases

However, let's say we managed to find a chemical or enzyme that could block the death-enzymes from forming in the cells, which would in theory render the cells "immortal" and ultimately the human

Would this be scenario be feasible? If so, then what would be the drawbacks of this technique

  • $\begingroup$ Read Greg Bear's cautionary tale Vitals about such efforts. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Oct 12, 2022 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Animals are programmed to die because lots of parts cannot be repaired. Dead neurons cannot be replaced. The lenses of the eyes cannot be repaired. Cartilage in the articulations cannot be repaired. Over time, the damage accumulates and the animal becomes unfit to live. (In general, "higher" animals such as mammals or birds only have limited self-repair capabilities. Bones and muscles can self-mend, but just about nothing else.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 12, 2022 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ Just in case, the "duplicate" question discusses the lengthening of telomeres to cause immortality, wherease this question discusses the blocking of programmed cell death, which are fundamentally different and unrelated. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2022 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ As a biologist, I'd agree that this is a question asking about a different mechanism of extending life. Unfortunately, on this site I'm not sure they consider it a realistic difference, since the answer to the question will be similar. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 14, 2022 at 3:17

1 Answer 1


Immortal cells make for dead people:

There are cancer cells still growing in culture from people who died decades ago. While individual cells die, immortality means those cells keep making new ones to replace them.

Cell death is a mechanism that your body uses to regulate your cells, causing them to behave collectively like a person and not just a giant mass of cells operating each for it's own benefit. Tissues that start becoming cancerous self-destruct. Tissues that shouldn't be in a certain place (like a developmental structure no longer needed) die to allow the collective whole to take on a functional form.

Take away this mechanism, and the cells are a step down the path of behaving selfishly. A muscle cell that has a growth signal makes more muscle cells whether you need them or not - or whether they are even in a functional conformation. Precancerous cells no longer have a signal to stop them from replicating. Without these genes, the body starts to be a mass of individuals who can misbehave without consequences.


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