Thursday, October 22, 2009


A fortnight ago when I read that the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to three scientists for their research into ageing, I was elated. About time, I thought, for breakthroughs in gerontology to be given recognition. The trio, Carol Greider, Jack Szostak and Elizabeth Blackburn, were honoured for their discovery that chromosomes are protected by telomeres, and that an enzyme called telomerase was responsible for maintaining or eroding the telomere DNA. Cells age when telomeres become worn. I am sure the discovery will spark off further research into cell preservation and ultimately, longevity.

2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine: Greider, Szostak and Blackburn

A day later another related news item caught my interest. Last month (Sept 3-7), about 200 scientists gathered at Queens’ College Cambridge for the 4th SENS Conference. The main organizer was Dr Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of SENS Foundation, and a distinguished biomedical gerontologist at the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. These scientists spent five days discussing ways to extend human lifespan, and (get ready for this) even achieve immortality.

According to Dr de Grey, medical science is progressing so fast that “a child born today can expect to live to 120 to 150 years. With the right breakthroughs in the next 25 years, there is a 50:50 chance that people alive today could live to be 1,000 years old.” This is achievable if cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disorders are eradicated, and worn-out body parts can be replaced or regenerated through tissue engineering.

Dr Aubrey de Grey and his book "Ending Ageing"

Absolutely fascinating, and not all science fiction either. In Biblical times, it was the norm for people to live several hundred years. Methusalah was 969 years old when he died.

But seriously, would I want to live forever, or even to 1,000 years? No, thanks! How would I spend my days? How would I look? Imagine a world populated with far more supercentenarians and immortals than children and young people. Yikes!

Given a choice, I would rather die at 100 and come back in a brand new body, than to live forever in a constantly renewed body.


foodbin said...

that will be awesome for people who are free from diseases.

CheaHSan said...

Like my friend said anything above 70 is a bonus. For me as long as we can walk, do things on our own and be independent it's OK to live 100 but not otherwise to burden those around us. Great post learning new stuff day by day.

Starmandala said...

Lovely layout and images, fascinating topic, very well done, my dear! Let's say that life extension gives us more options. A disease-free physical vehicle that's well maintained can function indefinitely and continue evolving to the point where it can accelerate desirable mutations that once took thousands of generations to achieve. It's quite possible that we may even acquire the cellular and molecular flexibility to consciously restructure our bodies (the way Michael jackson attempted to do, with disastrous results, via surgery). If such were to occur we would become a species of shapeshifters with the ability to constantly reinvent/recreate ourselves, thereby outgrowing the biological necessity of reproduction. In effect, we would become our own children and grandchildren - and old-fashioned uterine reproduction would become merely an adventurous option for some couples keen to experience what our ancestors had to go through to produce us. Now if we could not only extend our lifespans indefinitely, but also constantly experiment with our physical forms, constantly coming up with unique ways to operate in the matter universe, immortality might become the only sensible way to consciously experience and express our own divinity.

A Muse said...

Anti-ageing is all the rage these days ... it's the next big thing after sliced bread!
But seriously, it's my personal POV that living to 100 is not impossible - just ask Ray Kurzweil.
However, it's equally important to be disease-free. That's the challenge.
Come join me at Movement to Eradicate Lifestyle Diseases: Movement to Eradicate Lifestyle Diseases