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The Fight To End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding 569

Posted by timothy
from the gentleman-scientist dept.
oddwick11 writes "Aubrey de Grey and other leading scientists and thinkers in stem cell research and regenerative medicine will gather in Los Angeles at UCLA for Aging 2008 to explain how their work can combat human aging, and the sociological implications of developing rejuvenation therapies. From an article today in WIRED Magazine 'Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach — looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology — as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.'" The conference is free, though registration is required; L.A. area readers who can attend are encouraged to post their thoughts. Update: 06/27 05:18 GMT by T : Dr. de Grey notes that you can also simply show up and register on-site. Look forward to a Slashdot interview with de Grey in the near future.
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The Fight To End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

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  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:08PM (#23962451) Journal
    Heinlein wrote extensively in his novels on the subject of aging, treating it as a syndrome that was inherently cureable, including the anhedonia (loss of the joy of life) that came from that multitude of minor pains that take up so much of your attention as you get older. Pain is terribly distracting, from minor itching all the way up to opiate-resistant terminal conditions. It's a lot of nerve noise. Anything that can solve the complex of symptoms that lead to age-related death will also have to deal with pain and anhedonia as well.
  • Re:Hope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:09PM (#23962465) Homepage Journal
    As an aging human myself...may I say I support this effort whole heartedly.

    It doesn't appear as if vampirism is going to save me at this point, so, time to support medical science!!

    Yes...I DO want to live for ever.

    Now...which politician will speak out in favor of wiping out aging?

  • Boon for the news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrami (664567) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:13PM (#23962507) Homepage
    Imagine a world where all deaths are either by tragic accident or homicide...
  • Overpopulation... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by duckInferno (1275100) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:19PM (#23962531) Journal
    ... won't be an issue as long as anyone who opts in for clinical immortality is also stripped of their fertility. In fact, i'd imagine underpopulation would be a significant risk if enough people take it.

    I for one would love to live to see the day where we roam freely amongst the stars. With all the advancements in almost every area of existence that we are experiencing today, I don't forsee myself getting bored any time soon.
  • by Aphoxema (1088507) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:20PM (#23962533) Homepage Journal

    'living forever' really seems like it should be possible. Our bodies have a process, and that process can get altered by diseases and malnourishment and improving how we keep clean and what we eat has given us much more time to live.

    Why should aging be any different? Nobody really dies of 'natural causes', it's always something specific that breaks homeostasis in the end (sometimes starting from the beginning), natural causes is another name for 'there's no worth in investigating exactly why this person died because they're too damned old, but it's probably heart failure, even though that's a symptom of a mode of death'.

    Our bodies aren't designed on a basis of 'right' and 'wrong', it's designed on what worked best to getting the next generation across. Unfortunately, renewing certain kinds of cell tissue was never vital to that goal.

    We already know electronics and stuff are prone to getting old and eventually failing themselves, but there's no reason to use our artifice as an analogy, we have yet to create something that is constantly replacing itself on the cellular level, essentially becoming a whole new thing over and over.

    I hope this research makes some serious progress, even if it will be only our descendants that enjoy the results.

  • by edwebdev (1304531) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:20PM (#23962535)
    If human lifespans are ever extended to a significant degree, there will be significant repercussions as governments attempt to deal with what would inevitably become a very serious overpopulation crisis. Death and suicide are currently viewed as horrible things by the majority of western cultures. Would a practical illustration (catastrophic overpopulation) of why death is a natural and necessary component in the "lifespans" of living things, including human populations, change popular and governmental dispositions towards death and dying?

    What kind of effects might this have on policies towards euthanasia? More provocatively, might governments starting offering tax credits or other kinds of awards to families whose eldest members opted to end their lives? Might governments impose penalties on individuals who were older than a certain age?
  • by duckInferno (1275100) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:30PM (#23962613) Journal
    A good point - assume say 30 years of one's life is spent in an unproductive or counterproductive state (childhood/frailty/etc). Someone who lives for 500 years will have a lot less overhead than five generations of 100 yearers.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:32PM (#23962629) Homepage Journal

    People don't give a shit about the planet because they know they will be dead long before it is.

    Give them eternal life and watch how quickly they become militant greenies.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:36PM (#23962669) Homepage

    What on earth possesses people to think that progress will be so slow?

    Because it's going to be hard. Damned Hard. We have picked the low lying fruit (clean water, decent nutrition, vaccination, appropriate lifestyle) and are making small amounts of progress on the most common age related diseases (heart disease and cancers).

    The rest is going to either require 1) a "magic bullet" - some relatively simple pan organism aging switch that we can engineer a mechanism to interfere with and hope to hell it doesn't cause more problems downstream or
    2) a much better understanding of the extremely complex interactions that cause the human body to age.

    The first possibility is pie-in-the-sky, it's what many of the researchers are working on now and my wild ass guess is that it will fail. The second is going to require time, and a lot of it since doing the "experiment" on increasing aging will take close to a century and we will have to do many such experiments to make sure it works. Even if you find an aging model in a mammalian organism such as the dog with a normal lifespan of a decade or so, it will take quite a long while to figure out what's going on.

    And I haven't even begun to think about the ethical issues involved. Since "aging" starts the moment you are conceived, you will likely have to interfere with the process early, say in a person's teens or twenties. That's going to be fun getting past Institutional Review Boards.

  • Re:No no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:36PM (#23962681)

    Thanks to the magic of calculus, as long as you have less than two children (on average) per couple, the population will stabilize eventually. Many first-world nations have already reached that point (and are experiencing negative population growth as a result).

    A one-child policy seems a reasonable price to pay for immortality - hell, even if sterilization was mandatory a lot of people would still jump at the chance. And why shouldn't they? There's plenty of interesting people in the world to get to know. If we didn't spend our entire lives concerned only with our immediate relatives we might become a better species.

    Besides, even without old age plenty of people will still die from yet-uncured diseases, accidents, wars, murders, suicides, etc. Death isn't going away any time soon.

    The big question is how it would affect us psychologically: If death was no longer inevitable, would we give life more value? Would men still march to war? Would terrorism become a far more compelling tool? Would we spend eternity cowering inside private fortresses, fearing the slightest risks to our fragile immortality?

  • by maiki (857449) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:39PM (#23962697)
    Assume they stop or reverse aging and take it to the next step: never dying. Also assuming that we don't kill ourselves by overpopulation, what does that mean for the humans as an evolving species? We would stay the same while the rest of earth's species continue to develop? Death may be disastrous for the individual, but it allows the species to continue to adapt to changing conditions, no?
  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @11:42PM (#23962727)
    Funny how we're "overpopulated" but need constant immigration to keep our economies going. I don't believe "overpopulation" is the right word, but it's time for some new, well planned cities, no?
  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:33AM (#23963085)
    Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Kurt Vonnegut is a good story to read about the effects of immortality on life on this planet. I guess if we have some form of anti-gerasone, combined with the admonition of the Georgia Guidestones, we should wipe out a little over 6 billion people and let 500 million people live forever, thus halting human evolution completely so all of us can be wiped out eventually.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:40AM (#23963129) Journal

    Not only that, but there are some other things that just might be more pragmatic. If you live for 1000 years, traveling to Earth 2.0 might sound like a good trip to take, provided that we find a good source of energy for said traveling.

    I can think of a lot of things that would be enhanced by longer life spans, many of them mentioned here already. People are pretty much enslaved to that biological clock. If the alarm didn't go off so soon, it has been shown that in affluent societies, people will choose to not reproduce if the alarm clock is not about to start ringing.

    If I could live for 1000 years, and there were enough to do on the journey, I'd take that 200 year trip to Earth 2.0. In that time, I could easily become a quintuple PhD, concert guitarist, and some other things; perhaps redesign the propulsion system while on the journey. When you have more time, you don't have to make so many limiting choices, and that frees the spirit to be more useful to society at large. Yes, that is a bit philosophical, but I think it's right on this topic.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:44AM (#23963167)

    SENS is interesting because it takes a third option. The theory is that, yes, switching off aging is frakking hard, so instead of trying to keep from getting older we use medicine to heal the damage that aging causes.

    For example, as the body ages it accumulates "learned" resistances to diseases. Unfortunately, some of the cells which are dedicated to fighting specific diseases refuse to die at the end of their programmed cycle (and to make matters worse, they stop being effective at fighting the disease). Because there is a cap on the total number of these cells in the body an old body will have fewer young/functioning/adaptable anti-disease cells and have a weaker immune system.

    So rather than try and figure out why these cells don't self-destruct, SENS suggests finding and killing the ineffectual cells, thus stimulating your body into producing functioning ones.

    The idea is that "old age" doesn't kill people, but (as an example) influenza combined with a weak immune system does. All we need to do is repair our bodies and wait for them to start failing again. Sure, that means that we'll run into problems we haven't thought about down the road. But if you can push back expected lifespan by twenty years, you gain the next 19 years to figure out how to push lifespan back even more.

  • Re:Hope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:30AM (#23963439)

    You do offer a very valid point, and a difficult one at that. What if we don't die?

    Now, it could be assumed that the average woman won't be fertile longer, so those extra years maybe won't be used for breeding, but the problem remains: Imagine everyone from 1800 was still alive. Now subtract about a third of those people for accidents, suicides and the like. How many people would there be in your family alone? For me that would include 5-6 generations, in other words (just the direct relatives) it would include about 30 people, not even considering more distant relatives. Instead, actually there are only two left from my family, me and my father.

    Now multiply. The scenario scares the heck out of me.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:35AM (#23963459) Journal

    Given a free market economy, having a society that doesn't age will have some interesting effects. One of the more nasty is dealing with the rapidly diverging economic classes.

    See, some people manage their money and assets well, others just don't. In today's world, those that do manage well (the Warren Buffetts of the world, large and small) have only so long to accumulate wealth before they die, leaving their assets to kin who rarely do as well. Within a few generations, that wealth will be gone, and new powerheads raise up.

    It's a system of creation and destruction that has no end, and is largely self-stabilizing. But if people can live forever, those who can't manage their wealth will forever live just above their poverty line while those who can manage their wealth become wealthier and wealthier... forever. People of the likes of Trump, Gates, and Ellison will always be rich, and usually will be getting richer.

    Further, consider that those most able to AFFORD life extension technology will be the savers and asset managers, and you see very quickly that this is a problem that makes the problems of today's middle-class erosion look like a walk in the park.

    Me, I bridge these two categories. I'm pretty good at making substantial amounts of money, but I'm also pretty good at spending it. I'm working on saving a significant amount of my income. It's not easy for me, as I naturally view money as something to spend, not something to save, so I use lots of charts and monthly meetings with my wife to discuss our financial situation and I'm pretty damned insistent that we improve our financial picture significantly every month and every quarter.

    But if life extension technology becomes available, I want to be where I need to be to get it!

    Of course, there are other problems to be solved. What about overpopulation? Today's death rate in the United States is just shy of 0.9% [photius.com]. But if people "lived forever" the death rate would drop through the floor, so the birth rate would have to similarly drop to avoid a severe population bomb. We can't just tell people to wait until they are 200 years old to reproduce, since a woman ovulates every month, and there are a finite amount of eggs available in a female to give. Therefore, we have to allow for child birth by lottery, by tying births to existing deaths, or some other mechanism to equalize the birth/death rates to fit the resources available.

    Otherwise, we'll just crash Mother Earth, something we're on the verge of doing anyway!

  • Get offa my lawn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:45AM (#23963517)

    It sounds funny, but imagine the implications.

    Politics in a democracy is hanging on the sentiments of the majority. Now realize that this majority would be well over 100 years old when you can reach 500 years. Now imagine how slowly any political change can happen when the average voter is so fully entrenched in his stance that you need a major earthquake to move him.

    Think back 200 years and ponder what people deemed "good values" and beneficial. Do you think we'd have female suffrage? End of slavery?

    If you think politics move slowly today, just imagine what it would be like if not only politicians are old, but also the majority of their voters.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:52AM (#23963565)

    Quite the opposite, I think homicide will be much more of a crime. People will be much, much more afraid of dying, it will become even less a part of our life than it already is.

    When you think back a few 100 years, dying was everyday business. It wasn't more liked than today, don't worry, but it was an unfortunate but unavoidable part of your life. You couldn't cure many diseases. Far more children died than today, so you had to have more to give yourself a chance to see at least two of them reach old age. And with old, I mean "hopefully 50".

    So people had to arrange with death. And murder was a crime, of course, but not something you feared. Hell, you had so many chances to die, you weren't afraid that someone blows you up in your sleep.

    You know how deadly afraid we're today of imaginary threats, right?

    Now imagine death being a distant memory. Something that happens to people who are really, really, REALLY old. Something that won't happen to you for an unimaginable long time. Would you be afraid of murder? Would you consider killing someone 400 years "before his time" more or less of a crime than today?

  • by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:03AM (#23963639) Homepage

    God is the only one who holds the promise for an eternity better than anyone can conceive. God also loves us so he wants to see us happy.

    I think that the 'offtopic' mod is unwarranted, the thread is about science eliminating ageing and you are offering an alternative —albeit unpopular POV. One problem I have with your proposition, though, is that science is something that any random human that cares enough can verify for themselves. Not so with the God 'promise'.

    To begin with, it's not God whom holds the promise. It's random humans that do. They claim that God speaks to them, and maybe he does but it's not falsifiable.

    If I'm not a geneticist, or a scientist, science is still open to me and I can go out and study and learn what we humans know so far about how things work. The possibility is open for me, personally, to work in this or any other scientific research and continue it and add to it. Not so with this promises that supposedly come from God. There is no verifiable, replicable mean for Virtual Raider to acquire the knowledge that the people that spoke to God claim to have.

    I can go to some university and verify the scientific theories; but I can't go to the mosque or the synagogue, read The Word, try to reproduce those claims and ask to please talk with God to ask Him about some inconsistencies on His word on chapter whatever. Granted, I can't ask to talk to Einstein either, but if I so choose I can replicate all of his work and verify or disprove it (LHC anyone?). There is simply no way to verify any claims made by any religion.

    That doesn't mean that they are false, mind you. But for all we know God does exist and doesn't give a hoot about us. Or really, really hates us and enjoys making us suffer and it was Him who purposefully introduced pain and evil in the world for us to have a hard time. Maybe He exists but is so Vast, Magnificent, Unhumanlike and Incomprehensible that we have no hope of ever extracting any meaning from His actions. Or maybe He does love us and wants to see us happy. The point is, we have no way to know so that offers little comfort for certain type of order-and-answers-craving kind of minds.

    Why, even if He's waiting for me with arms wide open, isn't He Eternal and Everlasting and can wait a few more hundred or thousand years for me to go to Him? If He does exist, wouldn't you like to show up before Him with some achievements under your arm like a kid that comes home from kindergarten to show daddy his drawings? "Hey, look, I made people live 20 times longer than before!" or even "Look how many people I made happy by building bridges, cooking pizza, teaching to use Ubuntu during my 754 years alive!" ;)

    In sum, while IMHO you're not off-topic it's kinda pointless to say "yeah this is cool but I have something completely unverifiable that is way better, you just have to believe it is better without any proof whatsoever". Makes the case hard to argue.

  • Quote: "I live in LA. I was a little surprised when I moved here five years ago to discover that the normals outnumber the weirdos by a dramatic margin."

    It's just that the weirdos and shysters get more publicity than normal people.

    After about 18 months in L.A., you begin to understand the more serious problems. The L.A. culture is even more disfunctional than the culture where you lived before. It gets seriously lonely, living in Los Angeles, even though there are people all around you.

    Fraud Alert! In my opinion, this Slashdot story is about an almost purely fraudulent subject, with insignificant truth. Many people want to believe, and my guess is that the leaders of "anti-aging" efforts want to take the money of the believers. Here's where they ask for money: At present, a $100 donation (enough for a free signed copy of "Ending Aging") is leveraged to $150! [mfoundation.org].

    The real science in this is in the VERY early stages. It's a wild guess, but a somewhat educated wild guess, that perhaps one one-thousandth is known about body chemistry that would need to be known to "cure" aging.

    There have been some successes, if you can call them that. This paper talks about extending the life span of fruit flies by 7%: Extension of Drosophila Lifespan by Rhodiola rosea Through an Anti-oxidant Independent Mechanism [mfoundation.org]. This sentence is interesting: "We evaluated a new formulation of R. rosea (SHR-5) which contains elevated levels of the putative active compounds (rosin, rosarin, and rosavin), and found that it could extend mean life span by 43%." The interesting word, in that sentence, in my opinion, is "could". Not "extended the life span by 43%", but "could". And the active compounds are "putative"; that means "commonly regarded as such; reputed; supposed" [reference.com]. How "commonly regarded" can it be when it is a "new formulation"?

    If you follow experiments like this, you already know that "extending the life span of fruit flies" is rather common. If I were to try to extend the life of fruit flies myself, I would start by taking them out of their tiny cages in the laboratory and letting them fly more freely. Maybe now they just get depressed and commit suicide. (I find it difficult to be serious about that "research" paper.)

    Right now, 2008-06-27, 01:13 AM PDT, Slashdot is second on the list of Blog Coverage [mfoundation.org] (bottom of the left-hand column):
    * Digg
    * Slashdot
    * Center for Society and Genetics
    * Depressed Metabolism

    I wonder if they will eliminate the link to this Slashdot story when they discover that not all Slashdot readers are ignorant about science?

    Remember all the publicity about sequencing the human genome? A lot of taxpayers paid a lot of money for that. Then, it was revealed, that, so sorry, the epigenome [wired.com] is a lot more complex, very influential, and almost completely unknown.

    I would like Slashdot editors to provide an assurance at the end of every story they run that no one they know got money or any other benefit because of running the story.

    Every time you play a video game, you are spending time learning about a fantasy world, when you could be learning about the real world. If you study the real world, you can discover that "anti-aging" is a HUGE business, funded largely by people who have more money than scientific knowledge, and hope not to die.

    Yes, I know how to spell disfunctional. I just don't like that spelling, and I made my own.
  • Mortality, fertility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evilpenguin (18720) on Friday June 27, 2008 @04:18AM (#23964393)

    I'm all for this, as long as you drive down fertility at the same time. All of the really serious problems we face right now (peak oil, peak copper, peak phosphorous, unstable food supply, global warming, international terrorism, imperial foreign wars) are either directly caused or directly exacerbated by having ~6 billion people on this planet.

    If, right now, the human population fell to 1 billion many of the aforementioned problems would be eliminated and those that remain would become much more manageable. Even if the "window" of fertility remains the same (the age of menopause), a dramatic increase in lifespan still means a dramatic increase in population.

    Let's get the whole world on board with birth control before we go after longer life. I'd love to live in a world with a stable human population of about 1 billion people who live for 500 years.

  • Re:Hope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Genda (560240) <(mariet) (at) (got.net)> on Friday June 27, 2008 @04:33AM (#23964471) Journal

    Please forgive me my friend, but memes 2, 3, and 4 thousand years old are still impacting our world today... A "Man being worth his salt", comes from the Roman legions before the birth of christ. So I don't think a man's lifetime has anything to do with the human tenacity to stick our collective heads in a dark place and allow them to do little more than ferment. We've done a great job of perpetuating ignorance, bigotry, superstition, and xenophobia with lifespans just the way they are. In fact the shorter the lifespan the greater the ignorance (I'm not claiming causation, but the correlation is impossible to ignore.)

    If humanity, and the vast majority of life's current diversity are to make it to the next century, we best be getting ourselves a wee bit more enlightened. One should never consider functional immortality simply for fear of dying. That's a really lousy reason. One should embrace what would be possible if a person could actually approach projects that might take two or three traditional lifetimes. The universe happens on a scale that we are sadly too short lived to really appreciate. I for one, would love to see how some very interesting things are going to turn out. What will it look like when Eta Carinae suddenly goes hypernova?!!! What will happen when our technology becomes sentient? Will we be around (humanity) when the Andromeda Galaxy crashes into the Milky Way in several billion years?

    Wouldn't you just love to have front row seats for that firework display!!!

    We need to do a lot of evolving and damn fast. Maybe calling an end to death by aging is a great start at forcing us to address our immaturity as a species.

    By the way, I recently spent a Saturday afternoon speaking with Aubrey DeGrey, I found him incredibly brilliant and a truly fine person to share a pint with.

  • by ShiNoKaze (1097629) on Friday June 27, 2008 @05:06AM (#23964645)
    Except you're kind of over looking the fact that one of the main ways of extending life will be actual modification of DNA. Theoretically, once we know everything about our genetic code, those who can afford it will just pick out genetic variations they like and say "I'll have 2 of those, oh and that one seems popular with that one country, let me have that one too." The beginning should be fun at least to watch those rich who have no idea how it all works and just insist on getting genetic variations that won't work properly for them. I look forward to famous people with toes growing out of foreheads and such.
  • Re:Hope (Score:2, Interesting)

    by expatriot (903070) on Friday June 27, 2008 @05:47AM (#23964881)
    Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. They age and become unreliable before menopause.
    If there was a genetic change (for example changing the behavior of all telomeres) then perhaps the eggs would stay viable.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikShapi (681808) on Friday June 27, 2008 @06:31AM (#23965145) Journal

    WRONG.

    IAAPCABS (I am a professional coder and biology student). I'm trained in both the blinky and the wet.

    You don't need to be a mechanic to know how to push the breaks.

    The whole idea behind De-Grey's approach is to neither suffer the too-late finger-in-the-dam approach of geriatrics, and (in his own words) sidestep our ignorance of metabolism to avoid the pitfall of gerontology. I'm not saying we're there, but there is way closer than most people think.

    What he offers is quite simply an approach of
    1. identify accumulating cellular-level damage. He's actually done most of that himself. You'd find pretty much any cause of death you can think of has already been put into this roadmap, considered.
    2. categorize accumulating damage into solution-oriented categories. Accumulating junk in cells, junk outside cells, cancer, etc. De Grey's famous seven deadlies.
    3. Find ways to routinely remove part of that cellular-level damage as a once-in-a-period-of-time treatment. We can sustain a lot of it, up to a threshold. We absorb it quite happily till we're thirtyish. Obviate enough damage to keep us under that threshole, and voilla. This kind of work is being done sporadically here and there, but if you pull these in into a comprehensive framework, you'll end up extending the life of the machine, much like a vintage car.
    4. Repeat.

    There is no magic bullet. Shortening the life of any mechanism - be it a car or our body - is easy. all you have to do is break ONE critical part.

    Extending lifespan, on the other hand, is a bitch. You have to extend the life of ALL critical parts. And they wear out and fail in a multitude of different and creative ways. Death from aging is basically when just one critical bit gives way. To combat it, not only death but degeneration, dementia, frality, disease susceptability etc need be considered. You'll have to undo the damage time does. Fix the bits your body can't. Everything must be considered. But - and herein lies the crux - metabolism itself need not be altered. Doing that safely is still a very distant dream. We're nowhere near achieving that. We may, eventually, but that's wild speculation.

    Treating thus identified issues, all of them, methodically, through medical approaches we've already come to accept, is about as much science fiction as building the Chinese wall. A massive undertaking, to be sure, but fundamentally nothing but a big pile of dirty work. If someone'll do it, it'll get done. End of story. We can see a huge stretch of the way from where we are, unobstructed by the need for breakthroughs. Perhaps the entire stretch to the home run, perhaps at some point we'll need them. What's certain is, the way now is clear, and we have immense inertia.

    Now that the whole stem-cell moral debate is behind us and iPS have been shown to be feasible, enter the age of gene modification in-vivo, of controlled re-introduction of healthy stem-cells to traumatized tissue, of biochemical pathways being discovered every other day, of genomes and proteomes being mapped right and left, an immense and ever-growing protein bank and of synthetic biology, radical life extension is ... a natural mundane progression. It will happen.

    As De Grey's masterant was once quoted saying, "I expect to be of the last generation to die of old age. Or, with luck, the first one not to"

  • Re:Hope (Score:2, Interesting)

    by a-freeman (147652) on Friday June 27, 2008 @07:37AM (#23965663)

    Statistically speaking, an "immortals" probably wouldn't typically live much longer than 500 years anyway.

    Although I don't have the link, I remember reading a study on just this question some time ago. The authors made the assumption that each person would retain the body of a 35-year-old forever, and then calculated an average lifespan, given current rates of disease, accidents, and other causes of death, other than those that are related to aging.

    Of course, the implicit assumption was that people's behavior wouldn't change, which is probably not correct. However, the study did usefully suggest a plausible average lifespan.

    I don't know about you, but living for about 500 years sounds just about right; its long enough to see everything, but short enough not to get too bored.

  • Re:Hope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:12AM (#23966815)

    My guess is that this type of thing along with stem cell research would likely wipe up the slow killers that you mentioned. Unhealthy eating or lack of exercise won't come up and bite nearly as many people if they could afford to have a new/spare heart grown every now and then.

    In think essentially, this type of thing would end most deaths except for deaths caused by violent trauma, or for very odd coincidence deaths. IE, murders, car accidents, drownings, etc, but death from "natural causes" would become very rare indeed.

    That is of course, for those who could afford this. My bets are that with some people currently dieing of starvation for lack of food to eat, won't exactly be affording the miracle immortality drug.

    And such a thing would also add a degree of fear to living one's life I'd think. Myself, I'm typically not afraid of anything. I fly small planes which my family thinks is nuts. I've started glider lessons. I've gone rafting a few times. My feeling is that I shouldn't be afraid of any of these things. Even though they carry a slight risk of injury and/or death, it's easy to dismiss it as "We all gotta die somehow.". If there was no guarantee that I'd be dead within the next 100 years either way, it might result in taking far fewer dangerous risks in life. When the only way left to do is things like that, they wouldn't look so harmless anymore :).

  • by vorpal22 (114901) on Friday June 27, 2008 @10:42AM (#23968237) Homepage Journal

    For those of us with severe chronic illnesses who do not wish to but feel obligated to stay alive for our loved ones since the current societal view is that quantity of life is more important than quality of life, this is very disheartening to read.

    Doubly so for those of us concerned with overpopulation.

  • Re:Hope (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:29PM (#23970151)

    No more god-complex than:

    - trying to create artificial life
    - trying to create artificial intelligence
    - trying to create artificial suns
    - trying to cure/prevent any and all diseases by modifying our own genome/the genomes of other creatures

    And, for that matter, what's wrong with wanting to do things that are typically (in the mind of those who believe in such things) reserved for god? It wasn't so long ago that just using fire would have been thought to be something only a god could do...

    Trying to fight the *appearance* of aging with purely cosmetic efforts - yes, THAT is laughable and stupid - but actually trying to prevent actual aging? Not so much.

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