(p. A15) When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he must have thought he was stating an eternal truth. But if biotechnology researcher Nicklas Brendborg is to be believed, Franklin’s joke may need some updating. According to Mr. Brendborg, scientists have discovered a jellyfish the size of a fingernail that responds to stress by “ageing backwards,” reversing the normal direction of its development to become a bottom-dwelling polyp. This trick can be repeated over and over again with “no physiological recollection of having been older,” he explains, making this jellyfish “an example of the holy grail of ageing research—biological immortality.”
This tiny Methuselah is one of the striking examples in Mr. Brendborg’s breezy survey of the science of longevity, “Jellyfish Age Backwards,” which the author has translated from the Danish with Elizabeth DeNoma.
. . .
Short chapters built from short, declarative sentences combine with familiar material to give “Jellyfish Age Backwards” the feel of an introductory survey rather than a novel argument. Perhaps its piecewise construction is only a reflection of the disjointed state of the subject, where researchers are pulling on various threads but have not yet managed to knit them into a coherent whole. Mr. Brendborg finishes with a ringing declaration that the “noble” efforts of medical science will “eventually defeat” aging. But biology is complicated, as the author admits, and the strands of this multivariate and complex phenomenon may eventually prove to be tangled in some unresolvable knot.
For the full review, see:
(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 29, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Jellyfish Age Backwards’ Review: Dying Young at a Late Age.”)
The book under review is:
Brendborg, Nicklas. Jellyfish Age Backwards: Nature’s Secrets to Longevity. Translated by Elizabeth DeNoma. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2023.