- Peter Diamandis, co-founder of Human Longevity, Inc., thinks the key to keeping us youthful is to improve the repair mechanisms of the body.
- Research on drugs like metformin, and other geroprotectors, may help to find ways to expand the human “health span.”
Can science really enable us stick around on Earth forever? Experts haven’t developed ways to make us invincible, immortal beings who are unsusceptible to physical trauma or starvation. However, studies have been going on to make aging just another preventable disease. Effectively stalling the deterioration of our bodies would then mean humans could live indefinitely.
Peter Diamandis, co-founder of San Diego-based genotype research facility Human Longevity, Inc., spoke at the Singularity University in California last September about challenging aging and the deterioration of the body. The key to unlocking an indefinite lifespan was to improve the repair mechanisms of the body, said Diamandis. His research teams consider the possibility of using stem cells or nanomachines to regenerate our bodies.
Last year, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have used chromosome extensions that dramatically increased the rate of cell division, a growth mechanism of our bodies that weakens over time. The development hints at a chance to turn back the biological clock.
Metformin, a drug used to control diabetes, was dubbed “the fountain of youth” after discovering that it can extend the life of animals and prevent cancer. The drug increased the number of oxygen molecules processed by the cell, boosting metabolic and cellular processes vital to keeping us in good heath. Clinical testing for Metformin as an anti-aging drug began in February.
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF HEALTH
The developers of Metformin claimed that the drug could possibly help us live up to 120 years old, something that sounds straight out of science fiction. More and more, science is helping us understand our bodies and how we can cope with disease, and even aging.
Who wants to live forever? While answers may vary from person to person, what’s evident is that these developments are aiming to keep each person at their prime health and to spare people from the pain and difficulty of degenerative disease.
Stephanie Lederman, director of the American Foundation for Aging Research in New York, said, “The perception is that we are all looking for a fountain of youth…what we’re trying to do is increase health span, not look for eternal life.”
HOW TO GET AN INFINITE LIFESPAN
On YouTube, MinuteEarth explains how telomeres play an important role in aging — not just in humans, but in several critters that can exist in a seemingly perpetual middle age.
If humans can’t yet achieve immortality, the next best thing would be finding a way to slow down or even reverse the process of aging. While there’s an entire industry devoted to so-called “anti-aging,” the biological truth is that our fate is written in our DNA. Specifically, the end bits which are called telomeres.
These “caps” don’t hold the codes for proteins like genes do, so when the telomere gets a bit shorter each time the DNA replicates, no important information is lost. In humans, those telomeres will eventually get too short and coding DNA will start to be lost in the replication process, throwing a major hitch into cell regeneration. If our cells are no longer replicating at the rate they once did, the impact is felt throughout our body — in short, we start getting older and slowing down.
In one of their YouTube videos, MinuteEarth explains the role telomeres play in aging across multiple species — and why some animals, such as the naked mole rat, don’t seem to age at all. Despite their wrinkly appearance, naked mole rats produce a special enzyme that rebuilds the telomeres that keeps them young. Or, at the very least somewhat indefinitely middle-aged.
FOREVER YOUNG (OR, MIDDLE-AGED AT LEAST)
They aren’t truly putting a stop to aging, however: the naked mole rat may be able to live longer at a younger age, and they may have the unique ability to evade cancer, but they aren’t immortal. In fact, the longer the critters live, the higher their chance of being gobbled up by a predator.
If humans could extend their lives in a similar capacity to the naked mole rat, we may not have to worry about being eaten by something bigger than us — but unlike our perpetually middle-aged, hairless, wrinkly pals, we can and do fall prey to cancer.