Evolution of Extreme Longevity
posted on February 3, 2008
Last week I stressed how and why it is more important to preserve your health now than ever before. The great news is you may have a good chance for an open-ended youthful life span. The sad truth is some of us will die just short of the day when decay and death from aging becomes obsolete.
Maximum Life Foundation believes we could have complete control over aging and disease in 21 years (pending funding). And that includes the ability or being on the threshold of the ability to completely reverse aging damage. In other words “ transforming your body into the shape you were in when you were in your 20™s. Of course, that™s no guarantee. It could be 31 years¦ or 41¦ even longer. However between now and then, we will surely develop treatments and technologies that will expand our remaining lifespans. That means medical science won™t stand still in the interim. You™ll continue to benefit from a breakthrough here, and a therapy there, and who knows? Before you know it, you may find yourself in a high tech futuristic clinic undergoing full rejuvenation therapy.
Let™s say you™re 65 or 70 years old now though. If so, you might be resigned to saying goodbye to this world. You might figure you have about 15 more years, because that™s what the medical establishment, actuaries, the popular press and friends want you to believe. You might be buying in to the hopelessness and inevitability of a degenerating end to your life. But cheer up Methuselah. I have another scenario for you.
You may not have to stretch it out for 21, 31 or more years to turn the corner. What if I told you if you can stay healthy for just 15 more years, you might never die from aging? Well I believe that is the case, and here™s why.
Within about 15 years, medical technology should add more than one year to your lifespan every year, no matter what your age. In other words, your expected lifespan will continue moving away from you. And since we™re adding about two months per year now and increasing as we progress, during those 15 years, we could add about another 6-7 years. Aubrey de Grey calls this Escape Velocity.
That™s one reason why I am convinced many of us will be enjoying fantastic unforgettable sex on our 120th birthdays, while others will be distant memories in our partners™ minds.
Is Escape Velocity an excuse to slack off? Absolutely not! It™s every reason to give you hope and to improve your healthy habits. Don™t forget, if actuaries are correct about your expected remaining lifespan¦ about half the people your age will die before then. This is the worst time in history to roll the dice with your life.
50% HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION DEMONSTRATED IN MICE
Researchers have engineered mice that live healthy lives for 50% longer than their counterparts. It’s another good demonstration of the fact that metabolic and genetic configurations exist that are quite similar to evolved configurations yet very superior in terms of health and life span. The results of evolution are not necessarily those best for the individual:
The research group merged two known mutations to obtain this result. First, a p53 mutation that reduces cancer but also speeds up the decline in stem cell activity and tissue maintenance. Secondly, a gene for enhanced telomerase levels that increases the risk of cancer and boosts stem cell activity and tissue maintenance with age. The net effect is less cancer and greater stem cell activity and tissue repair in older animals – and a healthy life extension greater than that produced by calorie restriction.
I’ll make the fairly safe prediction that we’ll be hearing much more about the p53/telomerase area of research in the years ahead.
ON THE EVOLUTION OF EXTREME LONGEVITY
The natural world is replete with examples of extremely long-lived – and in some cases possibly ageless – animals and plants. To fit this into the evolutionary worldview is an ongoing challenge:
“How can evolution, biased to early reproductive success at all reasonable cost, produce such a species?”
Some potential answers from the scientific community can be found in the post above. The most important lesson to learn from an examination of the huge range in animal – even mammal – longevity is that it is possible to design better humans with the biotechnology of tomorrow. We could be longer lived, less diseased, less prone to aging. That is the driving goal behind much of the mainstream work in metabolism, genetics and aging these days. It’ll be a long time in the making, however – a truly massive undertaking of great scope and complexity. While that great work is underway, we should devote more resources to the easier path to longevity: learning how to repair the humans we have now: