In one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation, a main character, devoted to fitness, delivers the line, “Scientists say the first person to live to 150 has already been born. I believe I am that person.”
Although delivered as a joke, I was inspired to do some research into a more difficult question for my blog. Is this lifespan possible with medical advancements and if not, how long could we live for?
One scientist think it’s possible that medicine could lead to immortality. Aubrey de Grey biomedical gerontologist with the SENS Research Foundation, which is just a fancy term for someone who studies the aging process and how it could be slowed or even stopped. The theory is pretty out there in regards to conventional science, but de Grey is convinced that through advanced medicine we will be able to undo cellular damage that our body naturally experiences. De Grey believes that now that infectious diseases are largely under control, we can focus on the largest cause of death: aging. The idea is that we learn more about medicine, specifically stem cell therapies, the easier it will be for us to pinpoint the cause of our cell death and stop it. The natural progression of medicine and knowledge about the human body has lead to a longer lifespan, so who is to say that this cell regeneration isn’t possible?
In an interview with Life Sciences, de Grey details more thoroughly his theory. There are 7 causes of death, according to de Grey, which is a bit more detailed that just “aging” or “cell death”. These causes include: DNA mutations, mitochondrial mutations, proteins which cannot be digested accumulating in cells, harmful proteins accumulating outside of our cells, cell loss, lack of cell division, and too many cross links occurring between cells. de Grey is currently about to start testing his theory out on mice, as he feels that if he is capable of this then he will be more seriously regarded. With the proper funding, de Grey asserts that we could see this newfound immortality in 25 years, so hold onto your lives, folks!
Joon Yun is a little less optimistic, but still believes our lifespans can be increased – and soon. Yun is not a scientist. Instead, he is a hedge fund manager sponsoring anti-aging research. He is just one of the many players in this game, but according to The Guardian, the results are slowly becoming promising. An example given is the diabetes drug metformin, which has been shown to display some age-defying effects in patients. A Google search revealed to me that these effects were the increased oxidation of cells, which increased their lifespan. Another drug, used to treat some cancers and aid patients post-organ transplant, increased the lifespan of the mice it was tested on by 25%. Now, while mice certainly aren’t humans, this drug was shown to bolster the immunity of elderly people to the flu.
The results are promising. As time progresses and we learn more about how our bodies work, our lifespans are increasing due to new medicine. de Grey’s theory may not be true and the ability to live forever may not ever come to fruition, but the idea that people could start living up to 125 or 150 years old seems to not be so far off.