April 06, 2004

Life Extension Soon

Last month I posted some speculations about the next ten years. Here's what I wrote about life extension:
[Before 2014] the first tentative steps are taken toward life extension. By 2014, life extension enthusiasts have reason to believe that "escape velocity" has been reached in this field – each year brings more than a year's improvement in life expectancy. Nevertheless, age reversal remains elusive.
Michael West's book, The Immortal Cell, gives me reason to hope for some form of life extension - something less than escape velocity - within the next ten years. Dr. West is a pioneer in the field of therapeutic cloning. His studies have shown that when the genetic material of an adult somatic cell is used in cloning, infant stem cell results. Our aging is reversed in the "time machine" of conception.

It's not difficult for Dr. West to imagine effective life extension therapies resulting from this and related technology:
…I am particularly intrigued about the possibilities of making young bone marrow stem cells. These cells normally reside inside our largest bones…and give rise to all of our blood cells. As we age, these cells progressively lose their telomeres and become dysfunctional. As a result, the elderly have greater difficulty mounting immune responses to the flu and other infections…

…young bone marrow stem cells made by therapeutic cloning would be indistinguishable from those that you and I had when we were born. And these cells are relatively easy to transfer back into the body of an older patient. They can be simply infused into the blood vessel in the arm, and they will migrate through the blood and eventually take up residence in the bone marrow to make young blood cells instead of the old ones. This single application of therapeutic cloning in geriatric medicine could improve the lives of millions. If so, it would be the first time in history that geriatric medicine applied scientific knowledge of the aging process in such a profound manner.
Dr. West also speculates that a similar process would allow us infuse the bones of elderly patients with endothelial precursor stem cells. These cells are involved in replacing the cell linings of blood vessels. Aging of these cells is thought to be a cause of coronary artery disease.
The impact of such an exciting new therapy [infusion of endothelial precursor stem cells] could extend beyond atherosclerosis to heart failure, geriatric skin ulcers, and many other manifestations of the aging process.
The Korean achievement occurred after Dr. West published The Immortal Cell. Otherwise he would no doubt have spent a chapter explaining the achievement and it's implications. To recap: A South Korean team of scientists announced in February 2004 that they have obtained a new embryonic stem cell line by cloning an adult woman.

All that remains to achieve Dr. West's vision is for the Korean team to coax these stem cells into becoming bone marrow stem cells and endothelial precursor stem cells that can be injected into the blood stream of the patient. This could mean newborn blood and newborn vessel lining for the female patient who donated the original somatic cell.

This will be far simpler than growing organs in a vat. And if this sort of treatment is made available to all, perhaps the need for replacement organs would be reduced anyway.

Posted by Stephen Gordon at April 6, 2004 12:31 PM | TrackBack

$10 says no one lives past 125 years old. ever. :)

Actually this is a fascinating topic. I am curious though, why would people want to etend their life beyond its natural length? I want to die eventually , I have a feeling I am going to be very bored with this world by the time I am 70 or 80.

Posted by: Matt at April 6, 2004 09:36 PM

Matt --

$10 says no one lives past 125 years old. ever. :)

Consider it a bet. I can collect in 84 years (although I'm sure someone will beat me to it.)

Actually this is a fascinating topic. I am curious though, why would people want to etend their life beyond its natural length?

At 41, I'm already past the "natural life expectancy" of an American male 150 years ago. I personally don't feel that I've had more life than I should, and I can't imagine that I'll feel differently 50 years from now (barring major health problems.) In fact, my grandfather just died at age 91, and he fought it every step of the way. He's my hero.

I want to die eventually , I have a feeling I am going to be very bored with this world by the time I am 70 or 80.

Why? Are you bored now? Personally, I think life only gets more interesting as it goes along.

Posted by: Phil at April 6, 2004 10:00 PM


I agree with Phil. People don't get tired of life. They get tired of not having a life - the pains and limitations of old age today.

I'm certainly not interested in sitting in an adult diaper for twenty years longer. But I would think I'd enjoy being able to play tennis at age 100.

Phil: Since we're speculating, I'll bet you don't have to wait longer than 20 years to collect your bet. Somebody (almost certainly a woman) currently above the age of 100 is going to crack 125.

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at April 7, 2004 09:17 AM

Death sucks.

Posted by: Zarathustra2101 at April 7, 2004 11:15 AM

I tend to agree with Phil and company in that living a "natural" lifespan isn't well defined nor a particularly desirable goal for humanity. OTOH, I see boredom as a problem. Obviously, if you spend all your time constantly in pain, fighting to live, life isn't going to be that interesting. That at least we can fix in the long term. But I can see life getting boring for a lot of people.

For example, I see people bored out of their minds with their lives and they haven't finished high school yet while I see people in their 80's and 90's still excited with life. In other words, anecdotal evidence indicates to me that boredom isn't that closely correlated with age. So saying that you will become bored with life just because you exceed your natural lifespan just doesn't sound that bad to me. But also saying you won't become bored with life (say to the point of suicide) just isn't backed by the facts. I think a lot of the people who are bored now, will become bored and jaded to a level we really don't want to listen to in a few hundred years.

Posted by: Karl Hallowell at April 11, 2004 12:32 PM


Years ago a "career" was something that you did for your entire work life. If you became a plumber, that's what you did for about 40 years and then retired.

People change jobs more today than before. It's not unusual to see "non-traditional" students back in college (or in college for the first time) educating themselves for a better career.

I think this trend will increase if life extension becomes a reality. And I think careers will generally become shorter, not longer as a result of life extension.

Why? Because 40 years is a long time to do any one thing. I think that the reason people have ordered their lives like this in the past is because they have had responsibilities to children and to spouses that will now be prorated over a longer life. And until now there has been less of a reason to go get retrained toward the end of a career - life is winding down anyway.

If a 50 year old person had an indefinite lifespan ahead, he or she might dump the job their tiring of and follow their kids to college. "The spouse is working, so why not? Once I get my new job I'll help her get through school too."

Phil said the other day that interminable retirement would be as boring as interminable work. He's right. I think we will see new norms develop where people work a job for maybe twenty years and then take some time off during which they relax and then retrain. Others who are happy with their career might take a periodic semi-sabbatical during which they work part-time in an unrelated field.

As people live longer and more productively, more will find that they have enough retirement moeny set aside so that they don't have to work (they could live, in essence, off interest forever). I think these people will still find that they want to do something constructive with their time - something that they enjoy.

We've all heard the adage to "follow your bliss" when seeking employment. The problem is that being a ski-bum doesn't cover junior's diapers and college fund.

Many of us, perhaps most of us, have foregone some of the "bliss" in order to tend to other responsibilities - usually a family. After that is done, time is short. Health and strength may be fading too. But what would keep me from teaching ski school or something (at least for awhile) after the kids are grown and my body is like a 30-year-olds?

It will be interesting to see these new social norms develop.

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at April 11, 2004 01:13 PM

5898 You can buy viagra from this site :http://www.ed.greatnow.com

Posted by: Viagra at August 7, 2004 09:26 PM

1204 Keep it up! Try Viagra once and youll see. http://viagra.levitra-i.com

Posted by: buy viagra at August 14, 2004 12:43 PM

1274 Get your online poker fix at http://www.onlinepoker-dot.com

Posted by: poker at August 15, 2004 05:09 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?