“How would you like to stay just as young as you are, and not to grow one day older for the next 200 years?” This is Orson Welles’ voiceover asking the question. But is it possible to stop the graying of the hair, the wrinkling, the pain and the suffering? Is it possible to cure cancer? This documentary focuses on the discoveries of Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the 2009 Nobel prize for Medicine together with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. While studying a tiny single-cell organism found in ponds, called Tetrahymena thermophila, Elizabeth discovered that the ends of its chromosomes consist of repeated sequences of DNA and proteins. Those structures, called telomeres, protect the chromosome against deterioration and enable the cell to remain young.
Can the properties of the telomeres be leveraged to slow down ageing? And how about diseases like cancer?
Elisabeth is not on a quest for the source of immortality. Rather, she investigates how living beings work. One boy aged 16 has the body of a 85-year-old man. On the other hand, a 92-year-old man has the body of a boy. Why do certain people age more rapidly than others? Only recently, since Len Hayflick realized in 1962 that cells have some sort of biological clock built into them, have scientists been able to gain a better understanding of these topics. Part of the credit for that goes to Elisabeth, who is nevertheless very cautious when it comes to immortality.