”An American biotech company has launched clinical trials in Colombia to test a new therapy designed to reverse the aging process, and in turn, treat age-related diseases...” reports Live Science.
Here's the catch: it will cost you US$1 million to participate and you will need to travel to Cartagena, Colombia, where the trial is being conducted.
According to reports, the new treatment focuses on lengthening telomeres, structures found at the tips of chromosomes that become shorter after each cell division until they either stop dividing or perish.
The theory is that if telomeres are repaired, ageing will reverse. I can't prove this but I'm pretty sure the pertinent literature is littered with failed experiments based on that telomere theory – I certainly have read of several such studies over the years.
Announcements of new longevity treatments have been dropping into my inbox a couple of times a month for as long as I've been writing this blog (15 years), never to be heard from again. But this is the first time I know of that researchers are charging people money to participate in the clinical trial.
What intrigues me with every announcement of a possible longevity treatment is the unspoken assumption that lengthening human life beyond the ancient four-score-and-seven is always a good thing.
But is it really?
Let's play with that idea today. Something like how would life change without death looming or, at least, if an average life span extended to – oh, let's say 200 or 250 years.
My practical side always kicks in first: if people lived that long, where would we put everyone? We have already overpopulated our planet, perhaps beyond our ability to save ourselves. There are people in Hong Kong right now who make their homes in cubicles not much larger than a coffin.
Would ageing continue as it is now with our bodies slowly losing vitality as now or would good health necessarily need to be built in to treatment for increased longevity? (And does that put a monkey wrench in even the idea of life extension?)
If the trial mentioned above were successful, what would reversing the ageing process look like? Would a person treated for extended longevity look younger and younger by the day? How far back would people's ages reverse?
No one yet has come up with any way to extend human life. In fact, in the United States, life expectancy has been dropping in the past three years. So since this is fantasy today so go as wild as you like with predictions.
And let's not forget the cultural questions.
If life stretched out in front of us for two, three or more times the current life expectancy, would we still fall in love, have children, form families? Or would that become less important? Or...
How would work and its meaning change?
If you were the age you are now and knew that barring accident, you would have another 150 or more years, how would that affect your daily life? Your goals?
Does death give life meaning that it would not have if we could double or triple humans' current life span? How so?
Don't take this too seriously – have some fun with it today. Or, if you've got an extra million dollars lying around and you're thinking you might spend it in that clinical trial, let us know and be sure to send us updates from Cartagena.