Why do we have to die?

March 16, 2016
Justin Jinwoo Won  Laguna Hills High  11th grade

By Justin Jinwoo Won
Laguna Hills High
11th grade

Science has been lengthening our lives. Medicine, health care, better knowledge, and safer environments have significantly increased a human’s average lifetime from age 29 in 1770 to age 70 in 2012 (global average life expectancy).

However, we are very far from immortality—not dying at all.

Why do we have to die anyway? We can meticulously avoid accidents and diseases that might kill us, but even then we still age. So what fundamentally is aging? And why can’t we stop it?

From our experiences and instincts, aging is an inevitable and natural process that eventually brings every living thing to death. However, the reason why we age lies in our chromosomes containing our genes. Our cells have to divide to reproduce and sustain our life as a part of the natural process of the body.

However, when a cell divides into two to produce new cells, the cell’s chromosomes have to divide as well. Whenever chromosomes divide, each end of the X-shaped chromosomes gets a little shorter. When the chromosome isn’t worn off as much, everything functions just fine. But when the chromosome gets too short—what happens in old people—the cell stops to reproduce all together.

No more cell division deprives the person of new and healthy cells. When the last cells stop to divide due to too-short chromosomes, the doom is upon the person.

We age because we need to stay alive, ironically. The very effort to stay alive, cell division, wears off the chromosomes, leading us to eventual death.

Fortunately, there is a way to stop this shortening of chromosomes: an enzyme called Telomeres. This enzyme rebuilds the shortened ends of chromosomes, thus preventing the doom of cell division.

A research in which scientists genetically manipulated mice to uncover Telomeres found that the mice actually grew younger as the result of the manipulation. It is the key to immortality!

So why haven’t we already put the enzyme Telomeres to use in humans? Well, humans, unlike mice, can get cancer. So if the enzyme is applied to humans, the anti-aging enzyme’s error in rebuilding the chromosomes will build up rapidly through every cell division, which would lead to inevitable cancer in humans. Until we find a way to safely apply the enzyme Telomeres in humans or find a better way to stop the aging, humans still have to die.

Absolute immortality may not be possible since accidents and diseases will eventually defeat life. Whether we live forever or not, aren’t we lucky that we get to live life?


  1. Pingback: Chromosomes reconfigure as cell division ends | My Coaching Class

  2. Guest

    March 28, 2016 at 12:06 AM

    A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences, the enzyme lengthened telomere is “telomerase”. These are scientifical terms, so it must be corrected.

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