IVA TOLIC-NORRELYKKE:

JUNE 4 2009 23:14h

Finding Immortality is a Challenge for Me!

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The Croatian scientist that has discovered the recipe for immortality explains how much time is needed to implement it in humans.

Iva Tolic-Norrelykke is a young Croatian scientist who lives in Dresden, Germany. Two months ago she announced to the public that her team with the Max Planck Institute are on the lead to revealing the answer to an eternal question – how to become immortal.

In a conversation for Javno, she reveals how long she worked on this research and why she chose African yeast as a subject to study.

-.-Privatni arhiv-.-Considering that you came across a discovery that would bring a huge turning point in science, how do you feel?

“I am excited about the discovery itself, but we will know the significance of it only after years of research which have yet to come”.

How many people from your team participated in the research, and can you tell us some more details about how you came to the discovery?

“The research lasted for four years, and six of us worked in it: four students, a colleague physicist and I. We studied the family tree of yeast. We took one yeast cell and filmed it with a camera, whilst it was splitting into two daughter cells, then four granddaughter cells, and so on until a hundred or so after seven generations.

Then we analysed if there was any difference between those cells considering the speed they split and mortality. The idea was that the older cells would split (reproduce) slower and have a higher mortality than the younger cells.

Scientists on the research

The research lasted for four years, and six of us worked in it: four students, a colleague physicist and I. We studied the family tree of yeast. We took one yeast cell and filmed it with a camera, whilst it was splitting into two daughter cells, then four granddaughter cells, and so on until a hundred or so after seven generations
That is logical because a similar greater slowness and mortality rate can be seen in older animals and people, compared to the young. In our experiments we did not find such a trend. On the contrary, all of the cells had the same splitting speed and mortality, regardless of how old they are, or how many splits have occurred. From this we concluded that the cells from this yeast do not age, but can split endlessly, which is why we call them immortal”.

Why yeast, what makes it specific, has it previously been mentioned as a material that could be deciding in such a discovery?

“A special kind of yeast is in question which was isolated from African beer and used in laboratory research for around 50 years. The way the cells split is important with it. In splitting, with most other yeasts the mother creates a young daughter cell, and itself continues to live and split. Contrary to that, with this yeast the mother cell splits into two equal daughter cells, which we assume to be young. That assumption on keeping ‘youth’ through splitting has proven to be correct”.

-.--.-If it is revealed that yeast has the ability to prolong life, how would it be implemented in the organism?

“First of all we need to find out why this yeast does not age, whilst all similar single celled organisms are susceptible to aging”.

Which molecular mechanisms make this yeast unique?

“It is possible that this yeast has very efficient mechanisms of repairing damage in the cell. Only when we understand that, we will be able to think of how to modify human cells to have the same mechanism of regeneration functioning. These is long term research, certainly around ten or tens of years are in question. In any case – a great challenge!”.