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Imagine a world where we continue to live as long as we want and that too in the prime of our health! Wishful thinking, you may say. However, if we believe what Aubrey de Grey is saying, we may soon say goodbye to all the diseases that plague us today.

Doctors will soon find all the tools to cure aging

De grey is a biomedical gerontologist and chief scientific officer of the non-profit California-based SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation, which he co-founded in 2009. According to him, aging is nothing but a lifelong accumulation of different types of molecular and cellular damage that the body has to endure over the years. This damage keeps on accumulating to the point that it becomes pathogenic and results in diseases which we consider a part of aging. If we can find means to repair this damage periodically, then we may be successful in preventing aging. The new age medical technologies, which include gene therapies, stem cell therapies and immune stimulation, etc, are means to provide a regular “maintenance.”

De Grey’s idea may seem far fetched at present but we cannot dismiss it completely. Statistics available to us prove that we are inching towards that scenario slowly but steadily. Every year, the life expectancy is increasing by three months and according to certain estimates, the world population may consist of a million centenarians by 2030. There are more than 44,000 centenarians in 2010, in Japan alone and the record age of longevity has already reached 122.

The secret of a long life lies with stem cell therapy

According to De Grey, the secret of a long life lies with stem cell therapy. It has been designed to replace the cells which die and do not regenerate automatically. At present, it is being used to treat spinal cord injuries and the day is not far off when it will be employed to repair brain and heart which have been damaged by diseases of old age.

De Grey states that diseases of the cardiovascular system like heart attacks and heart failure are brought about because of accumulation of molecular garbage in the heart cells. This garbage is a by-product of metabolic processes. As it is not excreted by the body, it tends to accumulate in the cells hampering their normal functioning. De Grey is working along with other scientists to develop enzymes which can break down this garbage and clear the cells so that they can function optimally. Imagine the day when all the accumulated cholesterol is cleared in this manner and are arteries are no longer clogged. The day may well signal the end of cardiovascular diseases.

De Grey has put forward a theory of longevity escape velocity. According to it, newer comprehensive panel of therapies will help us in pushing back the old age faster than the passing of time. This would help us buy more time to develop more therapies to further push back old age. This, in effect, means that the first person who will live to 1,000 is likely to be born less than 20 years after the first person to reach 150.

If what De Grey is saying turns true, people will continue to live indefinitely unless there life is cut short by some accident.

  • “Who wants to live forever? Scientist sees aging cured”, Kate Kelland, Reuters, published on July 4, 2011, accessed on July 13, 2011.
  • Photo courtesy of executionsinfo on Flickr: