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“Humans have long sought the elixir of youth, so it is not surprising that even non-scientists closely follow the latest research into aging. But is what most people consider simply a fact of life actually a “disease” that can be cured? Or is there some insurmountable limit to the lifespan of human bodies?
Of course, almost everyone would welcome an extension of their healthy lifespan, and some scientists are looking at increasingly extreme ways to achieve that. Yet if we could stay alive only with the help of extreme measures, many of us would opt instead for non-resuscitation and solely palliative treatment. We might also find comfort in having the option of “assisted dying” as soon as our quality of life and our prognosis dipped below a certain threshold. Moreover, a huge increase in life expectancy could have undesirable and far-reaching consequences for society as a whole.
Much serious research into aging now focuses on stretches of DNA called telomeres that shorten as people age. By adjusting the telomeres of nematode worms, for example, scientists have managed to increase the lifespan of these creatures tenfold, although the same approach has less effect on more complex animals. The only effective way to extend the life of rats is to give them a near-starvation diet. But the naked mole rat may have some special biological lessons for us; some of them live more than 30 years – several times longer than the lifespan of other small mammals.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."
"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."
"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."
"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."
"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."
"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."
"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."
"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."