Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Life Extension In The Mainstream Again

The mainstream media is starting to catch on: our lives will be extended in the coming decades.

The more people accept the idea of holding the grim reaper at bay, the better. If the life extension meme becomes mainstream, more money is likely to flow into life extension-related research.

It used to be thought there was some built-in limit on life span, but a group of scientists meeting at Oxford University for a conference on life extension and enhancement consigned that idea to the trash can.

Paul Hodge, director of the Harvard Generations Policy Program, said governments around the world — struggling with pension crises, graying work forces and rising health-care costs — had to face up to the challenge now.

“Life expectancy is going to grow significantly, and current policies are going to be proven totally inadequate,” he predicted.

Just how far and fast life expectancy will increase is open to debate, but the direction and the accelerating trend is clear.


Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist from Cambridge University, goes much further. He believes the first person to live to 1,000 has already been born and told the meeting that periodic repairs to the body using stem cells, gene therapy and other techniques could eventually stop the aging process entirely.

De Grey argues that if each repair lasts 30 or 40 years, science will advance enough by the next “service” date that death can be put off indefinitely — a process he calls strategies for engineered negligible senescence.

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