Tactics to achieve immortality – When it comes to achieving biological immortality (or at least substantially extended lifespans), there will never be a single elixir that permanently ends our aging process. Instead, aging prevention will involve a series of minor medical therapies that will eventually become part of a person’s annual wellness or health maintenance regimen. The goal of these therapies will be to shut down aging’s genetic components, while also healing all of the damage and injuries our bodies experience during our day-to-day interactions with the environment we live in. Due to this holistic approach, much of the science behind extending our lifespans works in tandem with the general healthcare industry’s goals of curing all diseases and healing all injuries (explored in our Future of Health series).
Keeping this in mind, we’ve broken down the latest research behind life extension therapies based on their approaches:
Senolytic Drugs. Scientists are experimenting with a variety of drugs they hope can stop the biological process of aging (Senescence is the fancy jargon word for this) and significantly extend human lifespans. Leading examples of these senolytic drugs include:
Resveratrol. Popularized in talk shows in the early 2000s, this compound found in red wine has a general and positive effect on a person’s stress, cardiovascular system, brain functioning, and joint inflammation.
Alk5 kinase inhibitor. In early lab trials on mice, this drug showed promising results in making aging muscles and brain tissue act young again.
Rapamycin. Similar lab tests on this drug revealed results related to improving energy metabolism, lifespan extension and treating aging-related diseases.
Dasatinib and Quercetin. This drug combination extended the lifespan and physical exercise capacity of mice.
Metformin. For decades used to treat diabetes, additional research on this drug revealed a side effect in lab animals that saw their average lifespans extending significantly. The US FDA has now approved trials of Metformin to see if it can have similar results on humans.
Organ replacement. Explored fully in chapter four of our Future of Health series, we will soon enter a time where failing organs will be replaced by better, longer lasting, and rejection-proof artificial organs. Moreover, for those who don’t like the idea of installing a machine heart to pump your blood, we are also experimenting with 3D printing working, organic organs, using our body’s stems cells.
Gene editing and gene therapy. Explored fully in chapter three of our Future of Health series, we are fast entering an age where for the first time, humans will have direct control over our species’ genetic code. This means we will finally have the ability to fix mutations in our DNA by replacing them with healthy DNA. Initially, between 2020 to 2030, this will spell the end of most genetic diseases, but by 2035 to 2045, we will know enough about our DNA to edit those elements that contribute to the aging process. In fact, early experiments into editing the DNA of mice and flies have already proven successful in extending their lifespans.
Nanotechnology. Explored fully in chapter four of our Future of Health series, Nanotechnology is a broad term for any form of science, engineering, and technology that measures, manipulates or incorporates materials at a scale of 1 and 100 nanometers (smaller than a single human cell). The use of these microscopic machines are still decades away, but when they become a reality, future doctors will simply inject us with a needle filled with billions of nanomachines that will then swim through our bodies repairing any form of age-related damage they find.
Why do we age at all?
To be clear, there is no universal rule in nature that says all living animals or plants must have a set lifespan of 100 years. Marine species such as the Bowhead whale and Greenland Shark are recorded to live for over 200 years, whereas the longest living Galapagos Giant Tortoise died recently at the ripe old age of 176. Meanwhile, deep sea creatures such as certain jellyfish, sponges, and corals do not appear to age at all.
The rate that humans age and the total length of time our bodies allow us to age is largely influenced by evolution, and, as outlined in the intro, by advances in medicine.
The nuts and bolts of exactly why we age are still unclear, but researchers are zeroing in on a few theories that indicate genetic errors and environmental contaminants are most to blame. Specifically, the complex molecules and cells that make up our bodies replicate and repair themselves constantly over the many years of our lives. Over time, enough genetic errors and contaminants accumulate in our body to gradually deteriorate these complex molecules and cells, causing them to become increasingly dysfunctional until they stop working entirely.
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