I had a birthday recently and as you can see from my profile pictures, I’m no spring chicken (I wonder where that saying came from? Hmm, next post I may look into it) anyway, where was I? Ah, yes aging – it got me thinking about aging as a good topic to write about. A couple of happy Google hours later and I discovered a little about what gerontologists and scientists are working on that could change the way we age. Some of it’s akin to science fiction but much of the science is either available now, or soon will be.
The idiot’s guide to how bodies age now follows. Aging happens at the cellular level; our cells start to get clogged up with a bunch of debris that inhibits their ability to function. Basically they get ‘sticky’; then our DNA gets mutated, we lose stem cells and our body doesn’t work as effectively, or heal itself as well as it once did. Sort of scary!
What the new breed of gerontologists is saying, people like Dr. Aubrey de Grey, is that when we age we break down just like anything else, and therefore it’s an engineering problem and can be fixed. I like the sound of that!
Dr. de Grey is the principal of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), which means an integrated set of medical techniques designed to restore youthful molecular and cellular structure to aged tissues and organs. Please Google and YouTube this guy; he’s an unusual but brilliant character.
To try to sum up an intensely complicated subset of gerontology (biogerontology) in a few paragraphs is tough, but the basic story is that Dr. de Grey and his colleagues are predicting that we are just a few decades away from having anti-aging drugs on the market that will repair our bodies at the cellular level. He goes on to predict that living to 150 years of age, and being healthy, is a distinct scientific possibility.
Furthermore, and this is where it seems to enter the realm of science fiction, Dr. de Grey says that once we have people reaching a century and a half, the basic science will be in place to keep us alive for a thousand years, it’s just a matter of fine tuning. He likens it to the history of aviation; it took until 1903 for man to develop the first flying machine, but only another 66 years to conquer space and place someone on the moon. That’s the way science is, it takes a long time for fundamental discoveries to be made, but then refinements to these breakthroughs come at amazing speed.
So, if I can only hold on long enough I might become the oldest blogger on earth! Now, there’s a really scary thought.