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So my main character was genetically engineered to be biologically immortal.

By this I mean her DNA is a lot better than ours. The telomeres do not degrade over time same as genetic information. Cells can continue replicating forever.

Cancer is also not a problem because the DNA is altered to resist against radiation so cells will not mutate therefore aren’t going to become cancerous.

please note I’m not that good at biology and have only watched a YouTube video on this and we only started learning basic biology at school last term so this could be wrong and sound really bad but the fact is, i am not going to go into a lot of detail in my story, this is rather for the benefit of me knowing this is scientifically plausible-well kind of anyway.

So I read on another question in one answer that an immortal is still greatly susceptible to degenerative diseases. The continuous use of the organism will result in deterioration aka degenerative diseases like heart diseases and dementia.

I want my character to be immune against these. The only way he should be killed is physically (head chopped off, burned, etc) note I know that he is also susceptible to pathogens but that’s for another question.

Question What alterations or solutions would there be to stop this then?

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  • $\begingroup$ We're born to die, cancer used to be bad until it is tamed! Well done future...(wat've u done to gene p53?) $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 18 '17 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ "Able to fight degenerative diseases" and "immortal" are synonyms; they mean exactly the same thing. Most people die of a degenerative desease commonly called "old age"; by definition an immortal won't age. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 18 '17 at 9:11
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Immortal organism must have regenerative abilities much greater than what we see in any animals.

To fight neurodegenerative diseases, an organism should constantly generate new neurons, and recycle the old ones. To fight atherosclerosis, major blood vessels need to be able to regenerate. To fight tooth decay and periodontitis, new teeth need to constantly replace the old ones. To fight cataract, eye lens need to be regrown.

As I said, many of those abilities are far above what we see today in any of the large animals, but it doesn't look that any of them are technically impossible.

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You already solved the problem of cell death and degradation. It is safe to assume that your genetically modified (GM) people are good at regenerating tissues. I would think that it is unlikely for them to develop heart or vascular diseases. With this many of the degenerative neurological diseases associated with reduced or compromised blood flow will be avoided.

There is still a problem with the central nervous system. As we are now, we do not grow many new neurons. Moreover, you cannot simply replace the ones we already have with the new ones. The neuron connections in our brains are physical. Simple replacement of neurons can compromise neural pathways which will lead to things like memory loss or sensory and motor impairments. Each dead neuron must be replaced individually and its synaptic connections must be fully restored to avoid problems.

I would guess that GM humans will need bigger brains with more neurons, higher levels of neural pathways redundancy, and greater plasticity. With this, the brain will be able to repair itself more readily while not compromising its functioning or memory retention. It would also provide safeguards in case of minor brain damage.

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As far as I understand how telomeres work, with how your immortality works:

  1. telomere won't degrade, as in telomere won't get cut short.
  2. no mutation

you don't have to worry about degenerative disease and cancer.

Degenerative disease is simply accumulation of "old" cells. Old cell is cell that got its DNA cut/mutated. Your immortality already solved both of this issue.

Telomere prevent both ends of DNA from getting cut by creating a buffer zone when the cell splits.

Cancer is cell that reproduce uncontrollably. Normally, there is a self-suicide mechanism, called apoptosis, that control the death of a cell. If the cell's DNA is damaged, the mechanism triggers a suicide, preventing it from reproducing and potentially damaging the system. In cancer, this mechanism has been disabled, so the cancer cells can grow and spread like cancer.

How this mechanism become disabled? By mutation, either by mutagen (radiation, smoking, etc.) or reproduction (cut short). Because your immortal DNA is already resistant to mutation, so you don't have to worry about cancer.

Note : You might want to consider that by becoming immortal like this, your human cannot evolve.


tl;dr Don't worry about degenerative disease and cancer. With how your immortality works, both won't happen. You should worry about common disease caused by bacteria and viruses, though.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. Do you know if this is also possible for skeletal degenerative diseases like for instance osteoarthritis? $\endgroup$ – user44784 Nov 18 '17 at 8:16
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Grow the body new.

A human has the power to grow a body. Each of us grew a body from scratch as fetuses, then continued on after we were born.

I propose that your character do the same thing. It is fortunate for this scheme that she is female and so has the anatomy to do it. Before her own body becomes irreparably worn, she begins to gestate a new body inside her. The new body can be a clone of the old, if you like. Or very much like it. Many or most of her thought processes are duplicated in the brain of the new growing body.

After she is born, the new one continues to grow (as babies do) although intellectually and mentally she is almost identical to the original. The rest of the matching happens as the new one is raised by the old one. Experiences and memories begin to diverge as soon as there are two of them, the old and the new. The old one deteriorates and dies in due course and the new one carries on.

You could have the new one be born with the memories and experiences of the old one, which would be a unique power. Or you could have the old one gradually confer her memories and experiences on the new one as the new one grows up, which is a power we already have.

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The immortal being comes to transcend its limited degenerative biology by technological support. You can invoke nanoscience technology to describe the continuous repair of tissues and systems to a degree that perfects the conservation of information indefinitely.

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