X-Message-Number: 27743
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:35:02 -0600
From: IGGY & Svetlana <>
Subject: Life extension - article

Source: http://wired.com/news/wireservice/1,70417-0.html

Old Man, Look at Your Life

Modern medicine is redefining old age and may soon allow people to 
live regularly beyond the current upper limit of 120 years, experts 
said on Wednesday.

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

Paul Hodge, director of the Harvard Generations Policy Program, said 
governments around the world -- struggling with pension crises, 
greying workforces and rising healthcare 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.

Richard Miller of the Michigan University Medical School said tests 
on mice and rats -- genetically very similar to humans -- showed 
lifespan could be extended by 40 percent, simply by limiting calorie 

Translated into humans, that would mean average life expectancy in 
rich countries rising from near 80 to 112 years, with many 
individuals living a lot longer.

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.

His maverick ideas are dismissed by others in the field, such as Tom 
Kirkwood, director of Newcastle University's Center of Aging and 
Nutrition, as little more than a thought experiment.

Kirkwood said the human aging process was intrinsically malleable -- 
meaning life expectancy was not set in stone -- but researchers had 
only scratched the surface in understanding how it worked.

The real goal is not simply longer life but longer healthy life, 
something that is starting to happen as today's over-70s lead far 
more active lives than previous generations.

Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois in Chicago is confident 
that longevity and health will go hand in hand and that delaying 
aging will translate into later onset for diseases like cancer, 
Alzheimer's and heart disease.

But to get to the bottom of understanding the biology of aging will 
require a major step-up in investment.

Olshansky and his colleagues have called on the U.S. government to 
inject $3 billion a year into the field, arguing the benefits of 
achieving an average seven-year delay in the process of biological 
aging would far exceed the gains from eliminating cancer.

Ethically, the extension of life is controversial, with some 
philosophers arguing it goes against fundamental human nature.

But John Harris, professor of bioethics at the University of 
Manchester, said any society that applauded the saving of life had a 
duty to embrace regenerative medicine.

"Life-saving is just death-postponing with a positive spin," he 
said. "If it is right and good to postpone death for a short time, 
it is hard to see how it would be less right and less good to 
postpone it for a long while."

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