IT'S beginning to look like scientists are closing in on life everlasting. Last week, they announced that they've found a way to grow cells that can develop into body parts. They're called "human embryonic stem cells" and could be implanted in humans to grow replacements for our old, used parts. It would be like buying a set of tires, having your brakes lined or installing a new transmission. Scientists refer to the cells as "immortal."
If I knew where to go stand in line to get some of those body parts, I'd be there like a baseball fan lined up at the box office two days in advance to get World Series tickets. There are parts I need.
It's not easy to find out how organs like your liver, your kidneys and your lungs are holding up if you haven't had any trouble with them. Mine seem OK, so I won't ask for those. At my age, there's bound to be some narrowing of the pipes leading into and out of the heart, so I'll take a new heart and some of the connecting lines because I know these are important if I'm going to live forever.
Storing brain power
While I'd like to make the decision about which parts I need myself, it might be smart if I left the question of whether or not to get a new brain to someone else. If I need a new one, I'd probably be the last to recognize it. In any case, I'd want to save everything I have stored up in this one because it represents a long life of great times and learning experiences.
When you buy a new computer, you can transfer the information on your old hard drive onto the new one. I haven't read whether these cloning experts will be able to do that with the brain. If they can't, I'm going to stick with this brain I have.
It may seem as if I have my priorities out of order, but what I'd really ask for first is new feet. Something has to go first with everyone and with me, it's my feet. Last Saturday, I took four pairs of shoes, little worn, to the Goodwill because I've reluctantly concluded I am no longer a size 8 1/2 EEE. I have some 9 EEEs that are snug and I'm afraid my feet have spread and lengthened to the point where I'm now a 9 1/2 EEEEE.
What worries me about science providing us with new parts that may enable us to live forever, is room on Earth. Already we're cramped for space in the most habitable areas.
The fastest growing sector of our society is those over 80 years old. Old people are not doing their part for world order by dying on time the way they used to. The countryside is filling up. Small towns are running into one another so you don't know where Mudville ends and Hogtown begins.
We may have to take the drastic and controversial step of curtailing, or maybe even eliminating altogether, the birth of new people.
Gerbers and Pampers would hate it, but when the Bible said, "Be fruitful and multiply," the authors had not anticipated cloning. What we need now is not multiplication but subtraction.
If those at the back end of life keep on living because they can get new parts and babies keep being born and moving in on the front end, we'll quickly have an Earth even more overloaded with people than it already is. Earth will have to hang out a sign reading, NO VACANCIES!
6* Andy Rooney is a syndicated columnist.
Pub Date: 11/13/98