“You can’t be,” I laughed, thinking it was a joke.
But her expression did not change. “My episode with the fiend when I was a nurse was 245 years ago. And I’ve been chairman for the Ethics Committee for 170 years.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “B-but, how did you…” I couldn’t even finish the question.
“How did I live so long? Why do I look so young? Come now, don’t look at me like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I shook my head.
“My grades in cantus usage were always perfectly average. In today’s Sage Academy, I might even stumble over some of the second year lessons. But there is one thing I can do that no one else, not even Shisei, can. I can regenerate my telomeres. Do you know what those are?”
“I see. So even this information is restricted. Telomeres are the parts at the ends of our chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres are shortened a little bit because they can’t be fully regenerated. Once the telomeres have worn down, the cells lose their ability to replicate and death is inevitable. So the length of our telomeres dictates the length of our lifespan, like the length of a wick on a candle.”
Since my knowledge of biology was limited by the classes I had taken, I couldn’t fully understand what Tomiko was saying. But the image she created was clear enough. The nucleus of a cell divides the double helix of its DNA in order to replicate. With time, the ends of the strands of DNA shorten. If it were possible to reset these parts to their original length, eternal life was a real possibility.