How long can humans live? We ask an expert | Aging

La year, a study suggested that there was a hard limit to human lifespan: 150 years. At this point, the study said, the body could no longer repair itself after illness. But how can we be sure? I asked Richard Faragher, professor of biogerontology at the University of Brighton and former president of the British Society for Research on Ageing.

Even back in 18th centurythe researchers wondered how far medicine could go extend the lifespan. Is 150 years the final answer?
Modern humans have been on Earth for at least 200,000 years. For most of that time people have said, “No man shall ever travel faster than a horse” and been right. So to say that in 10,000 years we will not reach more than 150 is a big claim: it suggests that our 300 years of biology has everything figured out.

That makes it sound as if there could be no upper limit.
I’m agnostic about it. The talk at the moment is that breakthroughs made in lower model organisms – flies, worms, mice – could be translated to humans within about 30 years. Which would mean they could be applied to you. You can live to 100. A true optimist would say: we have managed to increase the lifespan of mice by 25%-38%. Roll it out to humans and OK, it’s not quite 150 yet, but the techniques could be expanded. I work in cellular aging. When senescent cells build up in my skin, they give me wrinkles. When older cells build up in my bones, they give me osteoporosis. And we know that if you remove senescent cells from mice, which you can do with some genetic tricks, you see this big improvement in health.

What is the pessimist’s view?
Well, they will say that the speed at which breakthroughs in mice translate to humans is not great. I think that tells us that we need to do more research.

Hold on…if disease is related to senescent cells and we can get rid of them, it doesn’t follow that we can get rid of the disease completely and—ouk! My brain just exploded.
Ha! Imagine the beginning of antibiotics. Perhaps you would say at the time, “Antibiotics could get rid of all disease? Wow!”

I would definitely say that. I wanted to be there in the candlelight, ear to the wireless, just spinning out…
And I must disappoint you by saying that penicillin did not eliminate all diseases. But something similar is starting to happen with aging health: the emergence of a new medical industry that looks like antibiotics. Good news for costs for the NHS. The question is which countries and companies will have the patents and manufacture the compounds?

Will this mean that only the wealthy will be able to extend their lives?
In fact, many of the procedures are quite inexpensive. An exciting drug is rapamycin. There is good evidence that it can be an effective treatment for age-related cognitive decline. I’d like to see a scenario where instead of someone saying, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I have cognitive impairment that will progress to complete decline within five years,” they would say : “Sorry, I snapped. I went to the doctor and now I have to take these tablets twice a day and the queue is so long!” My goal is to convert a life-changing event into something where all we have to moan about is waiting at the pharmacy, and I think that’s within reach.

How long can humans live? We ask an expert | Aging

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top