In the past two decades, science has made enormous progress in identifying the causes of aging and disease. For the first time in history, the intriguing prospect of human beings living for centuries without disease seems possible. In this article, UT-Austin medicinal chemistry professor Kevin Dalby takes a closer look.
Humans are fascinated with the idea of overcoming death. While it may be the subject of science fiction books and movies, there is evidence to suggest that, in some ways, we may eventually be able to extend life significantly. Here are some of the areas that researchers are working on that include anti-aging aspects.
Cryonics is the rapid cooling of a recently deceased person to preserve the body indefinitely. The stated goal of cryonics is to maintain the patient until a future scientific breakthrough can revive them. It is an expensive solution used mainly by wealthy individuals. The idea is that if you have the money to pay for it, there is no risk for the deceased. However, the dead person’s heirs might not feel the same.
While it currently seems impossible to revive a dead person, dying of old age is a process, not an event. Even after the heart stops, many of the body’s tissues remain intact at the cellular level. The goal of cryonics is to stop the process of deterioration as quickly as possible after death. The hypothesis follows that future physicians will develop methods for repairing or replacing damaged tissues and even entire organs.
Stem cells are unique cells that can develop into many different types of cells. They can, in some cases, be used to fix damaged tissues.
Stem cell research promises to revolutionize the therapy of many diseases, including cardiac failure, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord lesion. They are believed to play a crucial role in delaying the aging process.
A senolytic is one of the small molecules being studied to determine if they can selectively inhibit cell senescent — cessation of cell division — and improve health in humans. This research aims to identify agents that will delay, prevent, alleviate, or reverse age-related diseases.
Despite failures in clinical trials, the idea of purging the body of dying cells with anti-aging therapies continues to pique the interest of researchers focused on anti-aging solutions.
Online Digital Existence
Some people believe that technology has a better chance of keeping the essence of humans alive than medical science alone. While falling far short of the dream of a body and mind that will live forever, creating an accurate digital model of a person that can then be manifested as a chatbot or a voice-based assistant is well within reach of today’s technology.
Do we want to Live Forever?
As it turns out, most people do not want to live indefinitely. When a study asked people how many more years they would like to live if they could stop aging after 25, respondents revealed they had a limit. The majority indicated they would only want another 100 years or less.
About Kevin Dalby
Kevin Dalby is a UT-Austin medicinal chemistry professor. He is researching the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Dr. Dalby’s efforts were recognized by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health, granting him nearly $5 million to support his research.