11 July 2008

Prolonging youth

Excerpt from the article by A.Chubenko "Dreams of Immortality" (Popular Mechanics magazine, No. 2, 2008).

English geneticist and gerontologist Aubrey De Grey from the University of Cambridge claims that the average life expectancy of people in developed countries will soon grow to a thousand or more years, and by 2100 methods will be developed to extend human life to 5000 years. This reminds the statement known to the older generation of our readers, "the current generation of Soviet people will live under communism"…

But de Grey is not a lonely weirdo. His views are shared by many, including a large group of scientists working in the SENS project – "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Aging" (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence).

To begin with, the so-called Group of Three Hundred established the Methuselah Mouse Prize (M-Prize). The prize fund of the project is now approaching $ 5 million.

The M-Prize is divided into two parts. The "Longevity Prize" is awarded for the maximum duration of a mouse's life. The way in which it is achieved is unimportant – the main thing is that a genetically modified and/or a mouse that has been on a diet and stuffed with pills since childhood preserves physical and mental health. The main prize will go to the one who creates a mouse super-long-lived, whose age will be equivalent to 150 human years. The "prize for rejuvenation" is waiting for a scientist who will be able to extend the life of mice to the same mark by starting the "treatment of old age" in the middle mouse age. In addition, the M-Prize rules describe in detail the awards for each successive achievement on the way to the cherished goal. The last record in the competition is 1819 days, almost five years (the normal life span of mice is a little more than two years). However, all genetically modified long-lived mice have side effects that are unacceptable to humans (not to mention that such experiments on humans are currently universally prohibited).

De Grey assures that in order for a person to achieve "near immortality", it is necessary to eliminate 7 types of molecular and cellular damage using genetic engineering methods – "extracellular debris", "intracellular debris", cell death and atrophy, mutations in the nucleus and mitochondria, cell aging, cross-links between biopolymer molecules. His ideas may seem incredible – creating chromosomal copies of mitochondrial DNA and placing them in the cell nucleus (these copies will start working when their own mitochondrial DNA is damaged), replacing all stem cell populations with new ones once a decade, destroying intracellular and extracellular "slags" by introducing enzymes that destroy them into cells…

Thus, according to the author, technologies will be created that not only prevent old age, but also rejuvenate the body to the desired level. Aubrey de Grey claims that with sufficient funding for his programs, in 20 years people will cease to die a natural death.

Fiction? Most likely, yes, but on the way to this goal, researchers will surely make many discoveries, each of which will bring humanity one step closer to realizing the dream of eternal youth.

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