How long do you think you’ll live? Wouldn’t you want the certainty of living to 100 years with a great quality of life, for all your life? The reality is that when people do live to be 100, they certainly aren’t living with the same quality of life they had at 20 or even 60, but in America at the very least there’s a letter from the POTUS (President of the United States) himself to look forward to. So what if you could maintain your quality of life and even live to be 1,000 years old? Imagine what being the world’s only 1,000 year old person would mean. Perhaps you would receive congratulatory letters from all the world’s leaders, with the world’s foremost scientific minds falling over each other just to see you, and of course the celebrity and other honors that would come along with being such a marvel.
Naturally we understand that becoming a “millenarian” is inconceivable. But there are some that claim, against all odds, that a human being living to 1,000 years is not science fiction. On the contrary it is simply a matter of science.
As we know, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, developed in the mid 19th Century, supposes that mammals need to survive just long enough to pass on their genes, and a bit of wisdom, to the next generation. The idea is that mammals can live just long enough to ensure survival of the next generation. Of course, science has moved on somewhat since the 19th century and people are living significantly longer than they did in the 1800’s yet the basic principles of natural selection haven’t changed. So what has changed?
The rise of centenarianism
In an article published on the Daily Mail Online in October 2015, Dr Rudi Westendorp, Professor of Medicine at the Center of Healthy Ageing, University of Copenhagen, discussed that the eradication of serious diseases was the biggest reason why people today are living longer than ever before. He also cited the availability of treatment for degenerative illness as contributing to greater human longevity. The suggestion is that these are longer years alive that are being enjoyed, not being on life support and dependent on medications to stay alive.
Dr. Westendorp supposes that “the first person to reach the age of 135 has already been born” and he points at the statistical facts that show average life expectancy steadily increasing.
“Life expectancy has doubled from 40 to 80 years since 1900, and the proportion of people who reach the age of 65 has increased three-fold, from 30% to 90%.”
Dr Westendorp goes on to say,
“…every week we move forwards, newborns gain an extra weekend of life expectancy. Or that every day they gain six hours…”
Hailed by the National Institute of Aging (NIA), as “one of society’s greatest achievements”, increases in average life expectancy have been “dramatic” during the 20th Century and all signs point to a continuation of this trend.
“On a global level, the 85-and-over population is projected to increase 351% between 2010 and 2050, compared to a 188% increase for the population aged 65 or older and a 22% increase for the population under age 65…The global number of centenarians is projected to increase 10-fold between 2010 and 2050.”
But millenarianism is a step too far, right? People can’t live to be 1000, right?
You’d be forgiven for writing off British researcher and gerontologist Aubrey de Grey as a loon. He is internationally known for his view that medical technology will enable human beings alive today to live indefinitely, and that the first human being who will live to 1,000 years old, not just 135 years old, has already been born,
The thing is, the University of Cambridge researcher and author (of The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging, 1999 and Ending Aging, 2007) has never had his theories formally and convincingly challenged.
Aubrey De Grey racked up over 2.8 million online views for his TED conference talk in 2005 in which he explained a theory for defeating the process of aging with medical advancement. In his 18-minute presentation, “A roadmap to end aging”, he outlined his belief that aging is a “disease” and that this disease can be cured if it’s just approached as “an engineering problem”.
Aubrey de Grey created what he calls Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).Most of what Aubrey de Grey does is use existing technology in clinical trials to create molecular and cellular damage therapies. His team claims that while they haven’t invented new technologies, they are combining and testing with what knowledge is available in new and exciting ways. All of Aubrey de Grey’s theories and research are available for anyone to read but here is a summary of what his team proposes.
De Grey believes that there are seven types of aging damage and that these seven aging damage groups have direct links to conditions that can be prevented to delay death indefinitely. These seven types are:
- Mutations in chromosomes and changes to nuclear DNA that can cause cancer.
- Mutations in mitochondria (components in our cells) that are directly linked to energy production are believed to be a major cause of progressive cellular degeneration.
- Molecules and proteins that are broken down naturally in cells that are not removed from the body which have links to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Molecules and proteins that accumulate outside cells and are not removed from the body can also be seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.
- Cell loss occurs when cells in the body are lost and not replaced, or are replaced very slowly, which can lead to conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.
- Presence of too many cells that are no longer able to divide but survive and do things that they’re not supposed to do. A proposed consequence of this damage is type 2 diabetes.
- Too many cells linking together causing problems in the tissue that contains them because of a reduction in elasticity. An example of the effect of this is loss of elasticity that directly affects artery walls and the eye’s crystalline lens.
Aubrey de Grey’s team has planned decades of research on mice, and later humans, for the future. Only time will tell if these theories will be proven and applied to real medicine for extending people’s lives. This is really exciting especially because there isn’t a single scientist to date that has been able to say that life extension theories are a waste of time or flat out wrong.
After his TED talk took place, the MIT Technology Review openly challenged the scientific community to demonstrate why “SENS is so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate”. They offered a $20,000 prize for any scientist or group that provides a solid argument to not consider Aubrey de Grey’s theories. It’s already over a decade later and this prize has not been collected with critics still scratching their heads.
On the one hand, if you ask me, “Anne the millenarian” has a nice ring to it. On the other, two things are certain about this subject. First, nobody has convincingly argued the impossibility of these theories yet. That’s important to keep in mind. Second, none of Aubrey de Grey’s theories, or even any similar theories or claims, have become applied science and extended the lives of people or even just made parts of people “younger”. Unfortunately that means there isn’t a therapy or a surgery (e.g. Liz Parrish from BioViva), a pill, or definitely not a skin cream (e.g. obviously Instantly Ageless by Jeunesse Global) that can reverse your aging. The fountain of youth doesn’t exist, and anyone, like this quack Dr. Nathan Newman that works for Jeunesse Global, telling you that they are using “science” to literally make you younger is simply lying. Can we magically get younger? No, we just aren’t there yet. Are there options available right now for looking better and taking care of yourself and your body? Absolutely. Just don’t confuse the two!