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Prolonging life in Covid times

Years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn (1948), a Nobel laureate in physiology, discovered a bio-marker called ‘telomerase’, the enzyme that fuels the telo-meres that protect our genetic heritage.

Her research showed that the life and health of telo-meres indicate a healthy mind-body connection and longevity. She said that making some changes to our habits can protect them and increase the number of years in which we remain healthy, active and disease-free including the quality of sleep, exercise, diet and avoiding chemical additives in food, while avoiding chronic stress, negative thoughts and tense relationships.

She added the telo-meres respond to a person and understand the instructions and feelings they receive, whether they are tension, relaxation, sadness or happiness. Thus, telo-meres contribute to the state of your brain, your mood, the speed of your aging and the risk of disease.

The occasion to return to the book of Blackburn refers to an article written by the Israeli researcher, Yuval Harari, a few months ago, in which he stated that the formation of the modern world was done through a revolutionary position that humans can control death and defeat it by perpetuating life.

Until a few decades ago, the belief was that death is inevitable and a major source of life’s meaning. It was also prevalent among many, and still is, that one day fate will destroy death through a major metaphysical gesture such as the coming of Christ, but with the scientific revolution, death was given a different meaning, and it ceased to be a theoretically inevitable matter, but merely a technical problem.

People always die because of a technical defect, such as the heart stops pumping blood; cancer destroys the liver, and viruses multiply in the lungs and every technical problem has a solution. Thus we do not need miracles. If the heart suffers, we can stimulate it or even a new implant in its place, and so on.

It is true that we are currently unable to solve all technical problems, but the best minds have become preoccupied with issues of prolonging life, investigating and verifying the microbiological, physiological and genetic systems responsible for disease and aging, developing new drugs and revolutionary treatments, and achieving remarkable success in their endeavors.

Over the past two centuries, life expectancy jumped from less than 40 years to 72 years worldwide and to more than 80 in some countries. Children in particular have escaped the clutches of death, after a third of them, and until the Twentieth century, did not reach adulthood.

Harari asks: Will the Corona epidemic change human attitudes towards death? And he answers that most likely not. Rather, Corona will often cause a redoubling of efforts to protect human lives.

When an epidemic was spreading in pre-modern society, people feared for their lives and feared the death of their loved ones, and the reaction to that was to surrender to heavenly punishment.

However, when many in our time die as a result of horrific accidents, we tend to view what happened as a human failure that could have been prevented and not a heavenly punishment. In our time, mass death has become a reason for filing lawsuits and searching for the culprit rather than attributing it to superpowers.

Heroes today are not the priests and preachers, but doctors and scientists who work tirelessly inside their laboratories. The world has never lost hope in discovering a cure for corona, and the clergy during that time had to listen to scientists and close the places of worship.

Harari concludes by saying humanity needs less than two centuries to make life continue, and until then, we will lose our loved ones, and one day we will die.

e-mail: a.alsarraf@alqabas.com.kw

By Ahmad alsarraf

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