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Live to be 150: The Emerging Science of Life Extension
Written by Bob Mills   

How long do you expect to last on this good earth? It may be longer than you think.

The average life expectancy in the United States increased from 48 to 77 between the years 1900 and 2000. That’s a whopping increase of over 50 percent in the span of one hundred years.

Now, suppose that same pattern were to continue... A similar increase in the 21st century would bring the average life expectancy of babies born in to 2100 to about 125. On average, we’d be living to be 125 years old!

An aging debate

The science of life extension is of increasing interest as baby boomers age and the anti-aging industry explodes with ever-more remedies and potions, to the tune of $50 billion in annual revenue in the US.

Life extension is also known as anti-aging medicine, experimental gerontology, or biomedical gerontology. Scientists and believers maintain that we can slow down our aging processes via stem cell technology, molecular repair, organ replacement, and other scientific advancements – most of which are yet to actually exist.

Of course, there is a moral argument behind this field of scientific study: Can we really “play God” to the extent of doubling our life expectancy by manipulating our tissues and organs? But the real question is, is this kind of life extension truly possible?

The rapid pace of scientific advancement

It’s not just crazed speculation: The pace of advancement in biology is accelerating. A handful of scientists and visionaries even go so far as to claim that the very first human immortals might be living among us today. Their reasoning is that incremental advances in biology might allow us to live another thirty years or so, during which time we could take advantage of further scientific advances, while awaiting still further advances that would extend our lives indefinitely.

Of course, much of the increase in life expectancy during the 20th century can be attributed to reduction in the infant mortality rate. Since the infant mortality rate can never be reduced below zero, there is a limit to how much this will ultimately affect our longevity. Nevertheless, biologists are already pioneering new approaches that hold promise.

The promise of a very old worm

Does all this sound a little too “X-Files” to you? Then listen to this: Researchers have already discovered a way to increase the life expectancy of a certain species of roundworm by 500 percent. That’s the equivalent of extending a human lifespan by 350 to 400 years!

Clinical trials are now being conducted on a pill for human consumption (based on a chemical contained in wine) that may be able to suspend or even reverse the aging process. Some of the more hopeful advocates of life extension therapy point out that the 20th century increase in life expectancy of about 29 years represents almost three months of increased life expectancy per year. If this figure could be increased to twelve months per year, the human race would enter a golden age.

By the time you lived to be 80, the average life expectancy would have increased to 160, and by the time you lived to be 160, it would have increased to 320.  Even the inherent limitations of the human body could be transcended if an exact copy of your consciousness could be uploaded into a virtual computer world. (Okay – that may be a little X-Files!)

Waiting for immortality

No one can say for certain if or when these advances will occur. Even if you are a member of humanity’s first immortal generation, you probably won’t be able to confirm that fact for several hundred more years.  Until then, quit smoking, get plenty of sleep, and hope you last long enough for the first life extension pill to be developed.