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How Do Tortoises Get Old Without Getting Elderly?

You probably have never given thought to this seemingly less important, esoteric question!

Perhaps not, but it might surprise you to learn that the answer does have some relevance to a parallel question; can we as humans get older without getting old?

Research now is starting to show how the biological consequences of aging can possibly be minimized by science in a new science known as biogerontology.

Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, a popular book by Andrew Steele, published in March 2021, is in the forefront of biogerontology. ”Aging is not some rigid, immutable, biological inevitability,” writes Steele, a British scientist with a doctorate from Oxford.(1) Age-related conditions are the greatest cause of death, he writes. The goal of bioiogerontology is to prevent and control those conditions. 

”The dream of anti-aging medicine,” he says, ”is to identify the root causes of dysfunction as we get older, then slow their progression or reverse them entirely.”(2) The idea, he suggests, is to treat aging itself rather than treating individual diseases associated with aging. We can age without the diseases of aging. 

And, now, back to our tortoise! Unlike humans so far, tortoises are ”negligibly senescent”(old aged) and they do not continue to age once their bodies reach maturity. They are seemingly immune from aging itself, a phenomenon known as negligible senescence or negligible old age. The gradual accumulation of cellular damage and degradation that does slowly lead to death in other animals–including us–slows to almost a halt for a tortoise, facilitating further its life.(3) Records show that an Aldabra giant tortoise named ‘Adwaita’  in the Alipore Zoological Gardens in India was thought to be 255 years old when he died in 2006. 

The notion of figuring out how negligible senescence (old age) works and applying its secrets to humans is at the forefront of current life extension research, an important aspect of this new science- bioiogerontology.

So, could turtles hold the secret to human longevity?