Planet Earth

Bullish on Longevity

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyAug 6, 2010 9:13 PM


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About seven years ago, I reported regularly on the science of longevity, and the prospect of human life extension, for a site called Sage Crossroads. And then I stopped—pretty much dropping the topic for a while and going on to other things. So when I attended the Techonomy session yesterday entitled "The Longevity Dividend,” it was a perfect chance to hear just how far scientists think their field has come since I last reported on it closely. And I have to say, I was struck by the difference in tone. Seven years ago, scientists who study aging—so-called biogerontologists—already thought it was possible or even likely that at some point in the future, we would find a way to retard its rate in humans. After all, there were already numerous studies showing that genetic interventions could lengthen the lifespan of other species, particularly mice and roundworms. And caloric restriction—reducing dietary intake by about 1/3—had also been shown to extend lifespan in a number of animal species. (That’s why some humans themselves are already trying it.) So there were reasons to think that human life extension was coming—and more specifically, that a means of slowing the rate of human aging would be possible. But most mainstream scientists weren’t so bullish then. So optimistic. In particular, they were very worried about giving false hope, and encouraging anti-aging quackery. I detected a different tone on...

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