Until now it was believed that the duration of human life has a given threshold, but scientists who participated in a related conference at the Oxford University refused this theory.
Paul Hodge, the head of the Harvard Generations Policy Program, stressed that governments around the world who face the crisis on the issue of retirement of the aging workforce and increased health care costs should prepare to handle this challenge.
So, until what age and how quickly will life expectancy increase? These issues are still open to debate but the direction and acceleration of this tendency is clear. Richard Miller of the Medical Faculty of the University of Michigan says that experiments on mice – genetically similar organisms to humans – showed that lifespan can be extended by 40% if people simply limit the calorie intake. This could mean that the average lifespan in rich countries could be increased from 80 to 112 years.
Aubrey de Grey, gerontologist at the University of Cambridge, sees even farther. He believes that the first man who will live until the age of 1000 has already been born. As argued at the Oxford conference, periodic “corrections” in the human body with stem cells, gene therapies and other methods could stop the whole process of aging. De Grey believes that if the results of each “correction” last for 30 to 40 years, the scientific accomplishments till the next “corrective” appointment will lead to the indefinite postponement of death.
The revolutionary ideas of De Grey were rejected by other scientists of the kind, such as Tom Kirkwood, director of the Center on Aging and Nutrition, University of Newcastle. Kirkwood argues that the process of human aging is inherently malleable and life expectancy is not completely stable, but researchers have not yet managed to understand how it works. The real goal is not only live longer but to stay healthy for more years.
Jay Olshansky from the University of Illinois at Chicago is convinced that longevity and health are connected to each other, thus the aging delay will lead to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
However, the full understanding of the biology of aging will require major investments by governments in projects and experiments.