test your knowledge
How the world got lost on
the road to an anti-aging pill
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May 12, 2010: by Bill Sardi
That’s what Dr David Gems of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London just said in the British paper THE TELEGRAPH. Dr. Gems says people will simply choose to end their own lives in the future, when anti-ageing drugs that could extend the human lifespan by many years, become commonplace.
Live much longer and set the timing for your last days of life? Would today’s “green” culture decide to make the perfect sustainable gift to the earth — their ashes turned into a renewable food — something someone once called Soylent Green?
Just how would that be accomplished — by such unoriginal ways as over-dosing on aspirin, or running a hose from the car tailpipe into the window and turning the engine on in the garage and then donating your body for pickup by the Soylent Green truck? Or rolling your wheelchair up to the Soylent Green processing plant yourself?
I see a lot of super-centenarians now and they aren’t choosing to out themselves. But can society afford, or even retirees or their families afford, super-longevity?
Is life solely about quantity, quality, or something more — like a purpose in life? For those who have found purpose, many choose to go down with their boots on — working till their last day at the tasks God has given them. The pursuit of longevity as an end in itself seems so hollow.
Euthanasia is the killing of a person allegedly for their benefit (given heirs to their estate or government have no conflict of interest in doing this). Outing oneself is called suicide. What would the new term for this be — Greenicide?
Ending life to go live with God is called what? Godicide? Is this taking God’s timing into your own hands? That’s kind of what smokers do in a tacit way anyway (smokers liver about 10 years shorter lives than non-smokers).
Live an additional healthy and non-senile 30 years, that is what a calorie-restriction mimic is intended to do (cutting caloric intake by 40-50% roughly doubles the life span of all living organisms). Molecular mimics of calorie restriction propose to switch on the same genes as a limited-calorie diet without food deprivation. The problem is, there is no way short of a 99-year human study to conclusively prove this.
Anti-aging researchers are left to use markers of aging, such as lipofuscin (the accumulation of cellular debris), or the width of red blood cells, or the on-off switching of genes (called epigenetics), to validate longevity technologies.
To these ends, one so-called anti-aging pill (Longevinex) has already reported, for the first time, in a proof-of-principle study, that lipofuscin can be eradicated in humans accompanied by measurable improvement in function (mental scores, visual acuity). Biological aging can be slowed, even reversed!
Furthermore, in another study, this time in rodents, calorie restriction and Longevinex switched 633 common genes, all in the same direction! So much for blowing my own horn here, I formulated that pill.
I see cemeteries suggesting retirees make all the arrangements for their funeral — the location and disposition of their body. But what about a new enterprise? Pre-planning your 120th birthday!
Insurance actuaries (risk assessors) won’t like this, nor will the population controllers (Bill Gates, Ted Turner among them). But Moses achieved this via fasting, something similar to calorie restriction today, and on his last day he was said to be of strong body and good eyesight (no cataract surgery in those days).
Then there is the life of Luigi Cornaro, born in Padua, Italy in 1464 and died in 1566 AD, living 102-active years by limiting his food to 12 ounces and his red wine to 14-ounces a day! (See Google books: Discourses on a sober and temperate life )
Ah, only an Italian would think 3 glasses of wine a day is temperance! Sorry all you inventors of anti-aging pills, Luigi Cornaro figured it all out hundreds of years ago and documented it all! Luigi, by the way, who was horse-back riding, singing songs and writing his book in his 90’s, expired in a rocking chair, not a wheelchair.
I like the idea of a new venture, being a 120th-birthday party planner. You sell the longevity pills as part of the package. The longevity seeker pre-pays for a lifetime supply of the pills and the party. If they don’t live 120 years, they get a full refund!
My friend, I think I have found something better than a Ponzi scheme (the first who participate will benefit, the last will not), which is what the current Medicare and Social Security programs are. So don’t point an accusing finger at me for this idea. Ask yourself, why are YOU willingly participating in a Ponzi scheme now by contributing to Medicare and Social Security out of your paycheck? Look, call me for a lifetime supply of those pills, it’s a better deal. You might even live that long! –
Copyright 2010 Bill Sardi
By Stephen Adams, Published: 3:22PM BST 11 May 2010
But birth rates might also have to be centrally controlled to cope with rising numbers of old people, Dr David Gems of the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London said.
Dr Gems, who is researching ways of slowing ageing, said society faced “a strange future”.
Speaking on the ethics of anti-ageing treatment at the Royal Society, he said: “If we were to live very long lives then I feel that more people would simply elect to end their own lives. That seems to be reasonable.”
He argued that prolonging life with anti-ageing drugs that could delay the onset of age-related diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, was a moral imperative comparable to the eradication of smallpox.
“The potential for reducing suffering is absolutely immense,” he said.
The idea that developing illnesses later in life was more acceptable than developing them earlier “needs to be combated”, he added.
But he pointed out that if science enabled “quite dramatic increases in longevity” that could lead to large scale social changes.
Among them would be societies dominated by old people and higher populations as a result of lower death rates.
“I think there will be very difficult choices about centralised control of birth rates and so on,” he said.
Such drugs could also widen the life expectancy divide between rich and poor, he said.
Laboratory research on worms and mice indicates that it will be possible to “decelerate” ageing in humans, making people youthful for longer. The data also seems to be indicate that the twilight years of poor health could also be curtailed.
Dr Gems predicted: “As soon as people realise that there’s an alternative [to natural ageing], that they could treat ageing, then they will abandon their stoicism about it like that.”
At first drugs will only extend lifespans by small amount like six months to a year, he said, but scientists will continue to improve treatments extending life.
“We will be stuck on a treadmill of ever greater lifespan extension,” he said.
“But we have to say ‘yes’, we have to put the treatment of suffering first.
“Morally, we have to continue looking for ways to decelerate ageing – there’s no end to this research.”