justplainsomething said:

Do you know of any ancient cultures outside of Roman and Greek (and not European obviously) with myths about humans becoming immortal? I'm trying to do character building for a story about immortals in the modern world and I want to have as much diversity as possible (aka NOT just Romans and Greeks), but I haven't found much yet and also don't want to bend other cultures' myths to fit my ideas, either. Anyway, I think your blog is great and thanks for the help.

Immortality and the origin of death is one of the most popular topics of stories from around the world, actually. Often immortality is or can be conferred on average humans by eating or drinking a rare and special kind of food or beverage.

In the Islamic world you have the four immortals, including Khidir, the Green Man, who drank from the water of life and became immortal. Khidir’s tale shares some factors in common with the story of The Wandering Jew. You can read more about him and the other immortals here.

In China you have the Covert Eight Immortals:

whose power can be transferred to tools an used to destroy evil ro bestow life; as well as the Eight Immortal Scholars of Huainan, or the Eight Gentlemen, who aren’t deified or made supernatural in any way, as their “immortality” is a metaphor but I think that’s a fun play for fiction. As well as Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who famously spent much of his life searching for an elixir of immortality.

There are a fair amount of Native American tales that deal with this topic, too. The Boy Who Would Be Immortal is a Hočąk story, with analogues in Micmac, Menominee, and Potawotami, with their theme of fasting. If you plan to include immortals that blend with supernatural tales, Wendigo are certainly immortal (humans become Wendigo by breaking taboos or committing terrible crimes), as are Skin Walkers in Navajo legend.

In Vietnam, Hang Nga and Hau Nghe are made immortal by eating a special type of grass. Separate from this, you have the Vietnamese Four Immortals: the giant boy Thánh Gióng, mountain god Tản Viên Sơn Thánh,Chử Đồng Tử the marsh boy, and the princess Liễu Hạnh.

In both Hindu and Buddhist tales, the elixir of immortality is guarded jealously by the gods and Garuda, the mythological bird person, plays a very important role in these kind of stories in Southeast Asia.

Another linking theme is the Tree of Life, which many cultures have in common, from Yggdrasil to the Mesoamerican World Tree.

There’s a Yoruban tale about Oba Koso or Shango, who was forced to commit suicide by political intrigue but did not hang; The demigod Maui has many stories his quests involving immortality for himself and others in Tonga, New Zealand, Samoa, and many other Pacific Islands.

Also keep in mind, even if you’re going to allow Greek or Roman immortals to dominate your story-not all Greek or Roman immortals were white people. A notable exception is Memnon, an African (Ethiopian and/or Sudanese) king, who was killed by Achilles and mourned so deeply by Eos, his mother, that Zeus was moved to grant him immortality.

I highly encourage anyone else to add their favorite stories about immortality to this post!!!

7 reasons why cancer cells are immortal

1. Cancer cells don’t age.
Normal cells go through senescence through shortening of telomeres with every cell division. Cancer cells however have telomerase that will sustain the telomere length of the chromosomes rendering the cell virtually immortal.

2. Cancer cells have a way around apoptosis, their programmed cell death.
They overexpress antiapoptotic molecules and can multiply forever.

3. The Grim Reaper can’t recognize them.
The Natural killer cells, or the Grim Reaper; are supposed to cause death of the tumor cells. However, cancer cells remain undetected because they down regulate their MHC proteins or use decoy proteins to look innocent.

4. If recognized, the Grim Reaper can’t kill them.
Tumor cells block the death receptor pathway and directly interfere with the perforin/granzyme pathway. That is why, natural killer cells fail to kill them.

5. Cancer cells don’t need anything.
Cancer cells are self sufficient on growth factors. This means that they can continue to proliferate and divide independently, as opposed to normal cells that need external growth factors.

6. And if they do need something, they order it to come to them.
When cancer cells need of oxygen and nutrients, they stimulate angiogenesis; which is inducing growth of new blood vessels.

7. They have metabolic super powers.
The metabolism of malignant cells is usually more anaerobic than that of normal cells and is greatly accelerated. Malignant cells have the ability to withstand hypoxic conditions. They have increased glucose and amino acid uptake. In addition, they have high levels of hexokinase increasing their glucose utilization.

This jellyfish (Turritopsis Nutricula) can, as an adult, revert back to the polyp stage.

From there, it continues a conventional lifecycle, maturing and mating.

Instead of dying, the immortal jelly reverts, time and again, back into the polyp colony. That ability allows the jellyfish to bypass death, rendering it biologically immortal!

Almost Immortal Animals

Q: There can only be one Highlander, but a few animals have managed a sort of almost-immortality all their own. That is, they do not succumb to old age (ie. cellular sensecence) but they can still die from injury, predation, or disease. Name just three examples of animals thought to be biologically immortal. 

Bonus: What invertebrate’s immortality cycle resembles a Benjamin Button movie marathon?  

1. Lobster


  • Lobsters have telomerase activity throughout their tissues, even well into adulthood. Since their DNA is accurately repeated they can maintain accurate cell reproduction, something aging researchers believes contributes to their longevity. (x)

  • Of course, just because you can create a larger body, it doesn’t mean you can survive the molt into it. It takes a lot of energy to molt, and the larger the lobster, the more energy required. Somewhere between 10-15% of lobsters die every year from molt related complications. (x)

2. Giant Tortoises


  • Negligible senescence is when the mortality rate due to biological aging (re. growing old) is either stable or decreases with age. Even those of the non-giant variety (like the three-toed box turtle in a 2001 study) have shown evidence for negligible senescence, showing no signs of aging impairments! (x) So animals with N.S. do not die from old age (aka. senescence), although they can fall victim to injury and disease. 

  • For example: Adwaita, an approximately 255yr old Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), died of liver failure from complications resulting from a crack in his shell. (x)

3. Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii)


  • Dubbed the immortal jellyfish (formerly classified as T. nutricula), this species can achieve potential immortality by rewinding the clock on their life cycle. That’s right, mature adult medusa (what we think of as the ‘jellyfish’ stage)  can actually revert back into the immature polyp stage, and then restart the cycle all over again! (x, x) No wonder some have taken to calling this animal the Benjamin Button Jellyfish! 

A few more (almost) Immortal Animals:
~ Flatworms (x)
~ Hydra (x)
~ Tardigrades / water bears (x)
~Rougheye Rockfish (x)

It was a tough one this week, but you all should be proud!
Points (for at least 1/3) go out to jordanparish, wolf-eyedwanderer, alliieennss, hobboxcorner, stirfriedgiblets, ofwordsandwaltzes, dinoflamingo, and tenthousandthoughts

Bonus Points for correctly IDing T. dohrnii go to jordanparish and tenthousandthoughts

Doctors Are About to Start Human Trials for Suspended Animation

After years of sci-fi-inspired fantasies about the technique, a team of doctors in Pittsburgh are finally ready to start testing out a procedure that involves putting patients in a state of “suspended animation” while they repair their injuries. Put bluntly, they’re going to kill people and bring them back to life…

"After we did the first experiments, the definition of ‘dead’ changed," Rhee told The New Scientist. "Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them."