Brain and Body

Soon We May Live Longer Than 120 Years, Scientists Say

October 1, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Elderly grandparents enjoying life at a picnic.
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Biotechnologists are working to “hack the code of life” and extend our longevity, and one claims the first person who will live past 1,000 is probably already alive.

Back in the 1800s, people rarely lived past 50, but now, the global average life expectancy has surpassed 70. Slowly but surely, we’ve advanced in the fields of medicine and technology, and our lifespans have grown. Now,in the midst of a rapidly progressing era of technology, the expansion of our lifetimes might increase faster than ever before. In fact, biotech firms in Silicon Valley have launched programs that are working to extend the human lifespan well past 120 years of age.

Since the longest confirmed lifespan to date is 122-years-old, it will be no simple task to bring the whole human race to that level. But biotechnologists in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley, are taking on the challenge at full throttle. Their main initiative? To hack the “code of life” and thus “solve ageing,” reports Zoë Corbyn of The Guardian.

SEE ALSO: Ancient Bacteria Produce Elixir of Life

Joon Yun, a hedge-fund manager in Silicon Valley, told Corbyn that the probability of a 25-year-old dying before his or her 26th birthday is only 0.1 percent. So, statistically speaking, he says, the average person could live 1,000 years if the probability of death could be kept constant instead of skyrocketing with the trials of old age.

Interestingly, he believes that an endeavor to hack the code of life is so promising that he created the Palo Alto Longevity Prize — a $1 million competition to nurture innovations that end aging. We’ve dreamed of finding the magical age-fighting properties in the mythical fountain of youth throughout history, and 15 scientific teams are bringing us closer than ever.

Aubrey de Grey, a member of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize board, tells Corbyn that the first person who will live to 1,000 years is probably already alive. While most people accept death as an inevitability of life, he sees it as a “medical problem” that can be solved by science. He analogizes maintaining the human body to maintaining a vintage car, because we, too, are machines — but biological ones.

Biologist and technologist Craig Venter teamed up with tech entrepreneur and founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis, to launch the Human Longevity Inc. But the organization isn’t competing with the other biotech firms in the race to discover the Elixir of Life — instead, it’s compiling 1 million gene sequences to create a giant database by 2020. The extensive data should help biotech researchers determine what makes for a longer, healthier life.

Currently, there are several studies testing whether lifestyle choices — spicy foods, resveratrol (the compound found in red wine), mediterranean diets, exercise — bring about longer lives. There are also less conventional studies, like testing whether young blood has the potential to regenerate old brains. Or perhaps technology could be the answer, and humans could simply upload their consciousness to machines and live immortally in infinite virtual realms.

There are a number of other biotech and biomedical companies working to extend human longevity, including Calico, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and more.

While it’s an intriguing prospect that we could see the human lifespan radically increase in our lifetimes, it would completely change the course of human evolution. Mortality is a timestamp that reminds us to make the most out of every day, so living dozens — or hundreds — of more years might change that attitude.

Nonetheless, the thriving fields of science, technology, and evolution bear exciting possibilities for the future. But if we’re living past the hundreds and possibly reaching 1,000 years-of-age, it’s safe to say we’re going to have to give up the whole candles on the birthday cake tradition.

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