“Who wants to live forever?”, Sang the legendary Freddie Mercury. A question that is making a lot of sense, especially in the tech industry. In Silicon Valley, extending human life to immortality has become a goal to pursue. Many big names in Big Tech companies have invested funds in initiatives to solve the problem of death, as if it were just an update of the operating system.
What if death simply couldn't be undone? If longevity has a limit, what do we do? Researchers have addressed the question of how long we can live if, by a combination of serendipity and genetics, we don't die of cancer, heart disease or accidents. And in a studio published yesterday in Nature Communications they say that sheltered from these events, our progressive decline limits the maximum life span for humans between 120 and 150 years.
Whatever happens, does human life have a deadline?
For the study, Timothy Pyrkov and fellow researchers at a Singapore-based company called Gero looked at three large cohorts in the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. In order to assess deviations from "perfect health," they looked at factors including changes in blood cell counts and the daily number of steps taken, and analyzed them by age group.
For each of these factors, the pattern is the same: increasing age has resulted in a predictable and progressive decline in the body's ability to return parameters to a stable level after a break. When Pyrkov and his colleagues in Moscow and Buffalo, NY used this rate of decline to determine when resilience would completely disappear, leading to death, they found a range of 120 to 150 years.
Several variables joined by a constant
Measurements such as blood pressure and blood cell counts have known ranges, the team points out, while step counts are highly variable and personal. The fact that Pyrkov and colleagues chose a variable so different from blood counts and still discovered the same decline over time may suggest a real factor in the pace of aging at play in different domains.
The co-author of the study Peter Fedichev, who trained as a physicist and co-founded Gero, says that although most biologists consider blood cell counts and step counts to be "quite different," the fact that both sources "paint exactly the same future ”suggests that this“ constant ”of the pace of aging is real.
What social factors do the results reflect?
“We observed a steep turn at the age of around 35-40 which was quite surprising,” says Pyrkov. For example, he notes, this period is often the time when an athlete's sporting career ends, "an indication that something physiological may indeed change at this age."
The desire to unlock the secrets of immortality has probably existed as long as humans are aware of death. But a long human lifespan does not necessarily indicate long health. The goal should not be so much to live longer, but to live healthier for longer.
Death isn't the only thing that matters. Other things, such as quality of life, begin to matter more and more as people suffer the loss. The death modeled in this study is only the last act. The question is, can we extend life without also extending the proportion of time people go through a fragile state?
The final conclusion of the researchers is interesting to see. According to the study, treating diseases in the long term will ultimately not have the desired effect. The fundamental biological processes of the aging of human life will continue.
Then at least let's slow it down
The idea of slowing down the aging process has attracted attention. Not only in Silicon Valley among those who dream of upload their memories to computers, but also in a group of researchers. Scientists who see such interventions as a means to "compress morbidity", to decrease disease and infirmity and prolong if not the duration of human life, at least that of health.
Whether this will impact the "fundamental maximum limits" identified in this study on Nature Communications remains highly speculative. But some studies are being launched (for example the very interesting ones on the metformin) with the aim of mitigating the characteristic indicators of aging.
In this same vein, Fedichev and his team are not deterred by their estimates of the maximum human life span. Their view is that their research marks the beginning of a longer journey. “Measuring something is the first step before producing a change,” says Fedichev.
And the point is precisely this: given our nature, to take away this "expiration date" we must work to change ourselves, to increase our abilities: password H+.