Last Updated on 25 May 2020 by Ray Plumlee
Nobody really looks forward to their last day on earth, but no one seems able to do anything to prevent this steady approach. Everyone must, eventually, face the inevitable. But what if we could put it off as long as possible? The longest any human has ever lived, or at least that can be proven, was Jeanne Calment, who lived from 1875 to1997, making her a remarkable 122 years old. But what if we could significantly expand on this, or even extend it indefinitely? Some researchers claim this is well within the realm of possibility. There are members of the scientific community who consider aging to be not a natural process, but a disease, and would like to treat it as such with radical new therapies to not only control its symptoms, but cure it entirely.
First in this line of research is the study of how various drugs can affect the aging process. Studies that when bodies are forced into a restricted calorie diet, the body’s defense system will turn from growth and replication of cells, to the repair and maintenance of existing cells. Effectively leading to a rejuvenation at the cell level. As expected, the disadvantages of an extremely low-calorie diet are detrimental on a very basic level, meaning you could effectively starve to death, but with younger cells. Not exactly a winning situation. But there are certain drugs, such as Rapamycin and Metformin, which seem to be capable of mimicking a calorie restricted diet. Another drug-related anti-aging process may involve the use of Telomerase, a substance which could prevent the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are tiny buffers found at the end of each of our chromosomes, protecting these chromosomes from damage. As we age, these grow shorter and shorter, leaving our genes open to more and more damage, which enables the aging process. It is heartening to think that youth could become eternal merely by popping the appropriate pill.
Cloning is another possibility on the horizon in our quest for eternity. Is your liver shot? Clone another! Kidneys failing? Who needs a donor? Simply use a clone of your own. Carried to its extreme, perhaps we could simply clone a complete body for ourselves, and transplant out brain. Ethical questions may prevent this in the end, but research continues. But we may not even need a cloned part if stem cell research proves successful. Stem cells contain the code for reproducing a new, healthy organ, depending on where they are implanted. These cells could be used to create new healthy heart tissue to replace that damaged by heart disease. And the principal could be applied to virtually any body part. Just as we keep a classic old vehicle operating with a constant supply of replacement parts, we may be able to keep ourselves going indefinitely through cloning or stem cell technology.
Another anti-aging technique, which may sound more science fiction than either science or medicine, is the use of nanotechnology. K. Eric Drexler, is perhaps a founding father of nanotechnology, theorized that tiny, microscopic machines could actually repair our cells at the most basic level. And futurist Raymond Kurzwell wrote about this very topic in the book “Engines of Creation”, which was published in 1986, that he believed that nanorobots would have the amazing ability to completely suspend, if not reverse, the lingering effects of death and disease, by as soon as 2030. We may be looking at a time when that little capsule you swallow contains not medication, but an army of super-miniscule devices on the way to a work site within our tissues. Eager to repair whatever damage they may find.
Perhaps we may not have to limit our thinking to simply small machines. What if we could build a completely mechanical body, and marry our consciousness to it. Our mind, all our thoughts, memories, emotions intact in a virtually indestructible version of ourselves. The nature of the vessel is open to debate. It could be an artificial version of a human body, but synthetic in nature, or one more foreign to the human form. A sleek silver machine, perhaps, or an anthropomorphic version of our favorite animal. Would you like to live life as a real ape-man or cat-woman? The choice may be up to you.
And who is to say that one’s actual brain has to be transferred to a clone or cyborg? Perhaps the technology will be developed to simply upload all the electronic impulses of our biological brain to a non-biological computer or some sort of computational device. Some may see this is the perfect marriage of man and machine, while others will doubt believe that a mind existing as nothing more than a network of wires and circuits qualifies as life at all. The debate will rage on.
If you’re really attached to your own body, you could possibly choose to be cryogenically frozen. This involves having your body preserved at a very low temperature, in a state of suspended animation, until such a time as a cure or treatment has been found for the disease or condition which was about to end your life. This, of course, involves a bit of a gamble, as you are betting that, at some point, science will advance to the point that the ability to successfully revive you, and treat you, will exist in the future. And will it be a future you can adjust to.
Finally, there are even some researchers who advocate the injection of young blood, claiming that such injections will extend life, darken your hair, improve your memory, better your sleep, and treat diabetes and heart disease. There is, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, no real evidence for such claims. Vampires need not fear any serious competition.
So, if you’d like to live forever, or maybe just a few hundred years more without the inconvenience of selling your soul, hang in there. There are lots of things just over the horizon of medical research. But, remember, you must stay healthy until all this research comes to fruition, so don’t neglect your health and well-being now in the hope of what may be available in the future.