Can science reverse ageing? This guy thinks so… 30



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It may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but a Cambridge University researcher believes we will have the knowledge and tools to live indefinitely in as little as 25 years.

Aubrey de Grey heads the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project at Cambridge, and believes he has defined all seven causes of ageing – all of which he says can be stopped, and even turned around.

The seven causes of ageing are:

  1. Nuclear Mutations: changes to DNA or the proteins that adhere to our DNA molecules, which can lead to cancer.
  2. Mitochondrial Mutations: changes in the part of our body’s cells that produce energy.
  3. Intracellular Junk: proteins that our cells can’t break down and that accumulate inside our cells.
  4. Extracellular Junk: harmful proteins that build up outside our cells, an example is the plaque that forms on the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
  5. Cell Loss: some of the cells in our bodies cannot be replaced, or can only be replaced very slowly.
  6. Cell ageing: where the cells lose the ability to divide and possibly perform other essential functions, such as getting rid of proteins that could cause harm.
  7. Extracellular Crosslinks: a loss of elasticity of the linking proteins between cells.

If these are indeed the be-all-and-end-all causes of ageing then hurrah, let’s start stopping them in their tracks. So how long would be able to live for?

In an interview with Live Science, de Grey said, “I don’t see any inherent limit to how long it would be desirable to live. If life is fun at the moment because one is healthy and youthful, both mentally and physically, then one is not likely to want to die in the next year or two. And if a year or two down the road, life is still fun because one is still youthful and so on, then the same will apply, and I can’t see a time when that would cease to be true.”

In other words, de Grey is chasing the eternal flame… But, as the song says, would we really want to live forever? And how would that work?

de Grey says, like any new technology, things would be a little shaky at first. We’d need to “go in” for readjustments every now and then and have various treatments to keep everything working properly. But ultimately, he says, this could be as simple as getting an injection every year to “vaccinate” us against ageing.

The allure of eternal youth is not limited to a few kooky scientists (or raiders of lost arks). According to The Guardian, Google’s secretive Calico operation is putting hundreds of millions of dollars into anti-ageing research. Meanwhile, Craig Venter, a genetics entrepreneur, has launched  Human Longevity, a company that seeks to find the genes that lead to long life. Even the US Food and Drug Administration has approved trials of well-known drugs, such as the diabetes treatment, metformin, in the hope of uncovering anti-ageing effects.

And we’re getting closer. Time magazine reports that scientists aside from de Grey have uncovered the causes of ageing – it’s now a matter of putting the knowledge into practice.

Why do you think society is so obsessed with preventing ageing? Would you want to live forever? 


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. we will probably all be dead by then, come back and tell us when he can do it in a month or 2 🙂

  2. No, I wouldn’t people don’t look at the long term effect on over population,
    Our planet has too many people now and we would run out of natural resources, including food, not something I want to experience.

    3 REPLY
    • Lyn – nobody will force you to take longevity treatments, so you don’t have to experience the future that you predict. But what yo say is puzzling – yo would rather die for certain earlier, than live longer and – you claim – die of starvation at some point in the far future. I can’t make sense of that position, unless you believe that death is preferable to life.

  3. Absolutely no way!!!

    1 REPLY
    • Trish – so, let’s say in the year 2020, partially effective life extension therapies start to become available. Will you refuse to take medicine that will give you more stamina and energy, improve (perhaps) your eyesight, cardiovascular health, etc. ?

      Perhaps you will refuse the opportunity to live a healthier and longer life, but it seems that yo also want to deny that prospect to your children, friends and family. That seems a bit harsh.

  4. I used to think that by the year 2000 science would have all the answers for disease, but they seemed to get hung up on climate change! Climate has been changing for millions of years on earth so if you are healthy why not extend life? The climate will still change anyway!

  5. No! Would hate to think of a world where life is infinite – the selfish would become more selfish – greed would be in abundance and for the select few that could afford this ‘elixir of life’ would create an opportunity for them to segregate the weak from the strong – the ugly from the beauty and living past your prime would bring with it a ‘nonsensical reason for existing! Overpopulation and the exhausting of our natural resources would create more wars than you could poke a stick at… Life is a very precious ‘gift’ and all of us are only ‘custodians’ of the things we love and cherish – Eternal life would cheapen our existence and undermine the very valuable reasons we are here ie: to grow through infancy and childhood – to educate ourselves for the benefit of those yet to be born – and to enjoy the years on earth we have been given – to live on just for the sake of it after all these ideals have been fulfilled is a recipe for disaster!

    2 REPLY
    • Carolyn: there is no personal problem for you – when life extension treatments become available, you can simply choose not to take them, and die. But are you suggesting that these lines of research should be prohibited ? In other words that many laboratories around the world should be closed, and the scientists working in this field forbidden to continue ? Presumably if life extension work is made illegal, then anyone working on cancer, heart disease and Alzheimers would also be fired, as cures for these diseases of aging will also unavoidably lengthen lifespan. Or do you in mind a particular maximum permissible age, beyond which people should no longer be alive ?

  6. To enjoy a long life you have to be fit so I prefer exercise in lieu of drugs. Here is me at the tender age of seventy one:

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