Aubrey de Grey posits that in the near future life extension technology will increase average lifespans by a decade. He goes on to hypothesise that in that decade further advances will extend lifespan by more than a decade... and so on... leading effectively to imortality.
- In part this is based on experiments in mice which show a doubling in life span through calorific-restriction. Control their diet, and mice live longer.
- BUT: The mouse experiment with calorific restriction is very misleading. If you actually examine the 'control' mice, the ones fed on a 'normal' diet, you notice that they are obese by normal mouse standards. In the wild there is almost no selection pressure to curb feeding, since the norm is food in short supply.
- AND: The model of accelerating success in life extension is also highly suspect. It is at odds with a model of ageing which posits gradual deterioration of all biological systems in the body. Such a model is consistent with observed changes as individuals age. It would mean that successive extension to life would become progressively harder to achieve.
So not everyone concurs with Aubrey's optimism. However, there is likely to be a truly amazing revolution in the biological sciences within the next 50 years. Currently we have the entire genomic sequence of human DNA. We know how to 'read' it at the ABC level. We're just starting to understand the feedback systems. There is going to be a huge synergy here with computer analysis of this DNA data in conjunction with gene-expression data. It is every bit as exciting as if blueprints for an alien piece of technology had fallen into our hands.
Will increased and healthier lifespan come out of this research? Yes, absolutely. The more we understand the more interventions we have for repair.