Defeating aging. Present tense. We have not yet defeated aging, but we are heading down the road to defeating it. It will be a long journey of which we have only taken a few tentative steps. Science is progressing, and there are several possibilities that look like they will extend human lifespan by perhaps 10%. There are a lot more possibilities on the horizon too; most of which have only been tried in non-primates. The best one, calorie restriction, has been tried in primates (rhesus monkeys) and there are even a few hardy souls who are doing it on a personal level.
It appears we are born dying. Scientifically we are born with a certain lifespan expectancy which looks to be based on the amount of damage that we are born with. This damage places us on something called a Gompertz curve, which shows that even if you are a baby your have a small chance of dying. It also shows that after you are an adult, the older you get the higher your chances of dying.
In June (2017) I attended the American Aging Association’s annual conference. One of the lectures chastised people like me for using terms like defeating aging. He had a good point, for it leads people to believe that we really are defeating aging. I to be clear: we are as far from defeating aging now as they were from defeating cancer when Nixon declared war on it in 1972. Right now, there are bits and pieces that give us an indication that aging is malleable. But stopping or reversing it is still far beyond our grasp.
We can see the light at the end of the tunnel for cancer. In the last decade, several cancers have been conquered, and we have sound ideas for eradicating several more. This gives me firm belief that we can also defeat aging. Science is making progress. It is slow, and without a huge infusion of cash I estimate it will take 50-100 years before we really make significant inroads into stopping aging–at least as long as it took to conquer cancer.
I am a hard-core scientist. Which I define as meaning I don’t believe something until there is very solid science behind it. Since aging research is nowhere near the point where it can stop or reverse aging I am not yet convinced that it can happen. I am, however, optimistic and think it will happen eventually–even though science has yet to show much progress. There are some reasons for this optimism, for there are some animals that do not age, and there is even one species that can change their age from old to young. If we can figure out how they do it, we can try to apply the technique to other animals and eventually humans.