And do we want to?
Today, the average life expectancy is about 72 worldwide, but two hundred years ago, no country in the world could expect its population to live past 40.
Technological and medical developments gave us the chance to live longer and healthier lives, and even though that the maximum human life span appears to be 120 years, most of us only make it two-thirds of the way there.
Around the world, there are people who seemed to have a secret to living longer: for example, in a village in Sardinia, one in a six people make it to 100: the way we live affects how long we live; and a good social life, exercise, and mostly vegetarian diet, can help us live longer, happier and better lives.
The way we live affects how long we live for sure, but still, there are things we can’t prevent, at least not yet.
How could we achieve the goal to live longer, or to live forever?
What is it about old age that kills us?
And can we treat it?
If we could find the targets that drive aging, we may able to slow this process down and live longer.
Aging is the result of the biological accumulation of damage in our cells: this process started when we were born, during our 30s, this process accelerates. Most scientists just decided to deal with the idea of death and aging, but in 1961 we found an important clue.
Dr. Hayflick discovered that many human cells stopped dividing after about 50 divisions.
In 1980, we understood that this is because the chromosomes in our cells have protective caps on them, the telomeres: they get shorter after every division, and when they are not able anymore to protect the chromosome, the cells die. The solution looks pretty basic: the telomeres have to not get too short, so we need to engineer our cells.
Cells like this, already exist cancer cells.
And as we know, nobody is been able to solve it yet.
People during the years tried not only to find a way to live longer, but also to survive or even to live again after death: during the 60s, some scientists thought about freezing a person as soon after his death in order to bring them back to life in the future once science has figured out how, and people are also thinking about preserving the brain by uploading it to a machine.
There are two important discoveries that are giving us hope and that seems to be the right path to follow, the Daf-two and the Metformin.
The Daf-two is a gene that regulates insulin: this gene muted in mice extended their life of the 50%, and made them more resistant to multiple aging diseases.
Metformin is a drug taken by people with diabetes: it also regulate insulin, and people who used that lived longer than people who never dealt with diabetes. Today, we are studying if this drug can prevent diseases that come with aging.
A lot of improvement has been done during the centuries and a lot still has to be done, but the question is, do we really want to live more than 120 years?
Does everything become pointless if we live forever?
We could lose the concept of future, the concept of past, live an everlasting present that doesn’t bring satisfaction, and that makes us forget who we really are.
Living with a limited amount of time and the challenges we face are what gives life meaning, how could we improve ourselves, work hard for a better future if we have plenty of time to do that?
How could we leave a legacy?
At some point, we will start to think that the disease is immortality.
So, do we really want to live forever?
Or are we just scared about death?