Posted Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, at 4:30 PM
Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
The humble palm tree may hold the key to longevity—at least for plants.
New research has discovered palms possess cells that can remain viable for the entire life of the tree. Most organisms have cells that remain active only a portion of its life, then generate new cells as the old ones die off.
Plants and trees keep this cycle going even better than animals, because they can continuously grow new organs and tissue. But while trees, like some pines, may be up to 3,000 years old, their trunks are made up of mostly dead cell tissue acting as a supportive skeleton, with new cell growth occurring only deep at the trunk’s core. The cells in the palm tree's trunk, however, have been found to live more than 700 years, possibly the longest-lived organic material known.
Future comparative studies between palms and conventional trees may yield human benefits like improved crop production.