Extreme longevity: Why Aubrey de Grey believes we may live to age 1,000
British biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey is the unofficial doyen of the rejuvenation community, and one of the best-known advocates of the idea that vastly increased longevity could be attained in the near future. In an interview with Supertrends, he discussed the current state of the anti-aging industry.
At age 57, does Aubrey de Grey believe that he will live to see the fruits of the labors of anti-aging science? “That, of course, is the question I am always asked,” he responds. “The answer is that we don’t really know.” After many years of promoting gerontological research, he has become something of a celebrity, and with his long, flowing beard, he is the most recognizable face of the rejuvenation community.
While some researchers are careful to manage expectations regarding lifespan extension, and avoid predictions that might be seen as overoptimistic, de Grey promotes a vision of longevity that may sound like science fiction to some. Not only does he believe that we as humans can expand our lifespans far beyond current expectations, he is probably best known for his assertion that the first human to live to be 1,000 years old may already be alive.
Set course for Longevity Escape Velocity
As Chief Science Officer and co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation, de Grey promotes the development of “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence” that can help delay or eliminate the onset of age-associated conditions in humans. This would allow them to expand their lifespan long enough by slowing down the aging process and continuously benefiting from advances in scientific research to the point where the human body can achieve what de Grey calls “longevity escape velocity” and live for hundreds of years or more.
Much as with vehicles or airplanes, he explains, this requires continuous preventive maintenance of the body to keep up with the ongoing damage that our organisms suffer at the molecular and cellular level over the course of a lifetime – and to prevent the damage from exceeding what the body can tolerate. De Grey believes that healthcare and regenerative medicine should therefore be based on a more rational approach that treats aging per se as a condition, rather than as a composite of diseases.
He is optimistic that regulatory approval could be secured quickly and that once this hurdle has been overcome, citizens will demand that their governments make life-extending medicines available. What about the costs? De Grey points out that healthcare is among the top drivers of government spending in many countries, and that anti-aging solutions could help bring down costs: “When therapies come along, they will pay for themselves very quickly. Just think of the productivity gains for a population that lives longer, healthier working lives.” Even a modest extension of longevity, he argues, could be hugely beneficial to national treasuries.
A few days after our interview, de Grey is delivering the keynote speech to the “Ending Age-Related Diseases” online conference, organized by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation. Speaking in late August 2020, seven months into a global coronavirus pandemic, de Grey notes the global economic impact of COVID-19 – and points out that it is the elderly who are worst afflicted. Given that the aging of the immune system is linked to the aging of its constituent cells, he is convinced that the best defense against a repetition of the pandemic is a broad focus on aging: “Immune rejuvenation requires general rejuvenation.”
It is therefore fitting, he adds, that the XPRIZE Foundation is developing an Age Reversal Prize that is focused on rejuvenating the immune system. If the COVID-19 crisis has any positive effect at all, de Grey believes, it may be a renewed focus on aging per se. Given the burgeoning interest of the private sector in anti-aging treatments and interventions, he sounds cautiously optimistic about the future for life extension and rejuvenation. Assuming he is right, many of us may live to see much more of that future than we currently anticipate.
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