It’s unfortunate, but eventually everyone passes away. Although life expectancy has certainly increased in recent years, immortality has yet to be reached. Some people are able to accept the fact that death is inevitable, but it isn’t at all unusual for people to fear death. However, people are often able to overcome this fear through various means, a major one being the belief in a certain religion. Whether or not religion saves people or simply reassures them is not the point of this article; but rather, how would you react to being told when you will die? Knowing when you will die can certainly affect the decisions you make in life. If you were told that you would die in five years, you probably wouldn’t spend those five years working in an office; you would spend that time with loved ones and doing things that you actually love (perhaps you love working in the office; in that case, disregard my earlier statement). The ability to predict when people die will change lives, but are we actually capable of these predictions?
Image source: Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Carol & Mike Werner
Researchers believe telomeres may be able to provide information on when a person will die. Telomeres are located at the ends of chromosomes and they become progressively shorter as cells divide and as people age. It has been known that the decrease in length of telomeres leads to the aging of cells, leading to cell death, and that people with shorter telomeres are more likely to develop diseases. Researchers in this study found further evidence in support of the latter by discovering the correlation between telomeres and lung diseases–they found that a number of people with emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis had mutations in a telomere gene that caused them to have shorter than usual telomeres. The researchers concluded that people with shorter telomeres are more likely to develop lung diseases like emphysema, a leading cause of death in the United States.
The results of this study may make you to wonder whether being able to increase the length of telomeres would prevent people from getting diseases. Unfortunately, although certain ways to lengthen telomeres have been discovered, telomeres that do not shorten can cause other problems like cancer. Nevertheless, having the ability to predict when one dies from the length of telomeres can, at worst, allow people to plan out their lives accordingly.
Feature Image Source: Funeral by spazbot29