Monday, November 12, 2007

Possible Scientific Advancements In Longevity

The Hartford Courant recently reprinted an article from the Washington Post entitled, "When Life Won't Quit" A 1,000-Year Life Span? A British Scientist Says It's Possible, And Soon, written by By JOEL GARREAU

The article is quite thought provoking.
What if we could extend our life span to 1,000 years?
Would we end up with a society that would severely limit births as in China?
Could we sustain life on this planet with such longevity?
Gosh, imagine your holiday and birthday shopping if it included grand children, great grand children, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren etc.!

It is an interesting view to consider aging as a disease that might have a cure.

Anti-aging scientists are already hard at work trying to extend human life span.
It is very possible that we will benefit from that science and be able to live to be 130-150 years old in our lifetime! That is very bad news for US Social Security! and consider what other implications that has for society, like with marriage and retirement. Some conjecture that people may not want to engage in risky businesses like being a policeman or fireman. Imagine those implications.

Here is the article - Aubrey de Grey may have discovered quite an interesting scientific find.
Aubrey de Grey may be wrong, but evidence suggests he's not nuts. This is no small assertion. De Grey argues that some people alive today will live in a robust and youthful fashion for 1,000 years.

In 2005, an authoritative publication offered $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that de Grey's plan for treating aging as a disease and curing it was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate."

Now mere mortals who may wish to be significantly less mortal can judge whether de Grey's proposals are "science or fantasy," as the magazine put it. De Grey's much-awaited "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime" has just been published.

The judges were formidable for that MIT Technology Review challenge prize. They included Rodney Brooks, then director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, who shares credit for first sequencing the human genome.

In the end, they decided no scientist had succeeded in blowing de Grey out of the water. "At issue is the conflict between the scientific process and the ambiguous status of ideas that have not yet been subjected to that process," Myhrvold wrote for the judges.

Well yes, that. Plus the question that has tantalized humans forever. What if the only certainty is taxes?

Dodging death has long been a dream.

Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey, 44, recently of Britain's Cambridge University, advocates not Greek myths but "strategies for engineering negligible senescence," or SENS. It means curing aging.

With adequate funding, de Grey thinks scientists within a decade, may triple the remaining life span of late-middle-age mice. The day this announcement is made, he believes, the news will hit people like a brick as they realize that their cells could be next. He speculates people will start abandoning risky jobs, such as being police officers, or soldiers.

"Of course, the world will be completely different in all manner of ways," de Grey says of the next few decades. His speech is thick, fast and mellifluous, with a quality British accent.

"If we want to hit the high points, number one is, there will not be any frail elderly people. Which means we won't be spending all this unbelievable amount of money keeping all those frail elderly people alive for like one extra year the way we do at the moment. That money will be available to spend on important things like, well, obviously, providing the health care to keep us that way, but that won't be anything like so expensive. ...

Secondly, just doing the things we can't afford now, giving people proper education and not just when they're kids, but also proper adult education and retraining and so on.

The mind reels. Will we want to be married to the same person for a thousand years? Will we need religion anymore? Will the planet overflow.

Aging consists of seven critical kinds of damage, according to de Grey. For example, goo accumulates in our cells. Our bodies have not evolved means quickly to clean up "intracellular aggregates such as lipofuscin." However, outside our bodies, microorganisms have eagerly and rapidly evolved to turn this toxic waste into compost. (De Grey made this connection because he knew two things: Lipofuscin is fluorescent and graveyards don't glow in the dark.)

By taking soil samples from an ancient mass grave, de Grey's colleagues in short order found the bacteria that digest lipofuscin as easily as enzymes in our stomachs digest a steak. The trick now is getting those lipofuscin-digesting enzymes into our bodies. That has not yet been done. But, de Grey says, comparable fundamental biotechnology is already in clinical use fighting diseases such as Tay-Sachs. So he sees it as merely an engineering problem.

Examples like this make up the 262 pages at the center of "Ending Aging."

By 2005, his ideas had attracted enough attention as to no longer be merely controversial. De Grey was being pilloried as a full-blown heretic.

"The idea that a research programme organized around the SENS agenda will not only retard aging, but also reverse it creating young people from old ones and do so within our lifetime, is so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community," wrote 28 biogerontologists in the journal of the European Molecular Biology Organization. Their recommendation: more of the patient, basic scientific research that is their stock in trade.

"Each idea that we decide to pursue will cost years of work and a great deal of money, so we spend a lot of time at meetings, seminars and in the library trying to search for and weigh alternatives, and looking for loopholes in our chain of arguments before they are pointed out to us either by peer reviewers or experimental results.

Beyond the question of whether immortality is feasible, is it a good idea? Why is it, when you bring up the idea of living forever even if robust and healthy, not drooling on your shoes some people just recoil viscerally?

"It's probably the majority that recoils viscerally," de Grey says. "It's what I call the pro-aging trance.

"Since the beginning of civilization, we have been aware that aging is ghastly and that aging is utterly inevitable. ... So we have two choices. Either we spend our lives being preoccupied by this ghastly future or we find some way to get on with our miserably short lives and make the best of it.

But if people don't die, won't we indeed fill the planet shoulder to shoulder?

"The birth rate is going to have to go down by an order of magnitude," de Grey acknowledges. "But even if that is going to be a severe problem, the question is not, do problems exist? The question is, are they serious enough to outweigh the benefits of saving 100,000 lives a day?"

Gee whiz, if we really can live that long, imagine not having term limits in government! You could be stuck with people like Ted Kennedy for 500 years or more! Now there's a sobering thought.