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The Myths of Aging
The article is by William F. Harrell, and it can be found at BP News, or Baptist Press. I don't know much about Baptist Press, and I intend no disrespect of their site or their beliefs. I merely intend to use the public words of this author to illustrate a point. To start with:
(Aubrey) de Grey is simply trying to do something that is impossible -- he is trying to solve a spiritual problem through medical and “mechanical” means. He is trying to do what man has been trying for thousands of years to do -- and that is to get back into the “garden of Eden” relationship with God. All of human history attests to this desire of man. … Mr. de Grey is trying to restore the eternal life characteristic to man…
Harrell tackles de Grey's efforts to extend lifespans, by pointing out that de Grey is trying to do what people want, just in the wrong way. And it is what people want. Just about everyone wants Eternal Life, however they define it. But as Harrell so deftly points out, while most people may want Eternal Life, they don't want to live longer:
I have posed this question to a lot of people: Would you like to live to be say, 300 years old? You might be surprised to learn that even though people in general fear death, I have not found a single person who answers "yes." Nearly universally, they say they would tire of life at extreme ages. They can’t imagine dealing with the growing problems in the world, which surely will get worse. To them, the thought of outliving everyone they know is depressing. Most people say they want to live a normal lifetime and then die peacefully. longevityfirst.org
There is a significant possibility that over the next few decades science will make discoveries of a kind that might allow the doubling of the average human life span, from roughly 76 years now to 150. This development would, for many, represent the realization of a dream: that of enabling people to live much longer lives than at present, holding back death, which has often been seen as an ancient, unbeatable enemy. It would also raise a large number of unprecedented individual and social problems: Would we really want to live to 150? Is such a goal ethical? What would this putative longevity do to our present social structures and arrangements? Would we get a better society or a worse one? fightaging.org
From The Camp That Values Suffering And Death
Leon Kass, advocate for suffering, death and mysticism, a good example of the worst of modern bioethics, is still turning out material in opposition to healthy life extension, it seems. Fortunately, he's no longer heading up the President's Council on Bioethics - although what's left is just as bad, frankly. There Kass is, however, plugging away at the idea that it's a wonderful thing to suffer, decay and die in pain. From the article:
First, medical progress often leads to greater debility in later years even as - and precisely because - it cures deadly diseases at earlier ages. This is the paradox of modern aging: we are vigorous longer and we are incapacitated longer. To be sure, no one wants to turn back the clock to a time when mothers and children died regularly in childbirth, when infectious diseases decimated helpless communities, when heart disease was largely undiagnosed and untreated, and when a diagnosis of cancer meant swift and certain death. But severing medicine's sweetest fruits from its sourest consequences may prove impossible.
Note the sneaking in of a form of the Tithonus error here - it's certainly not true that medical progress leads to greater debility in later life for you and I. In fact, studies show quite the opposite effect.
Second, to see medical progress as a "cost saver" is simplistic at best. Medical care is more expensive than ever precisely because we can do so much more to diagnose and treat disease, and Medicare and Medicaid are costlier because more people are living longer. Even if curing today’s diseases becomes less expensive over time, no one knows the cost of dealing with the diseases that will replace them. Only if people live free of illness to the very end and then die suddenly will medical progress really result in cheaper medicine. Otherwise, it will continue to purchase greater longevity and better health at an increased overall expense.fightaging.org
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say they have discovered a cellular "fountain of youth" that enables human cells to avoid normal aging and cell death.
The finding won't make people any younger or allow them to live forever, but the researchers say it could keep them healthier longer.
"This process may increase the normal health span, but not the normal life span," said Dr. Jerry Shay of the University of Texas, the lead researcher. "We're not saying that this will give people something to make them live longer." CNN
We are working to develop product candidates to treat various degenerative diseases by the controlled activation of telomerase. Published evidence by us and others has demonstrated that cellular aging caused by shortening telomeres, which occurs in numerous tissues throughout the human body, causes or contributes to chronic degenerative diseases and conditions including anemia, AIDS, macular degeneration (a chronic disease of the eyes often leading to vision loss), atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries which reduces blood flow to internal organs) and impaired wound healing. Controlled activation of telomerase in normal cells can restore telomere length and thereby increase the lifespan of cells without altering their normal function or causing them to become cancerous. Geron corp
Hwang Woo Suk ...grabbed headlines in February, 2004, when he and his team at Seoul National University announced the cloning of human embryos, from which stem cells were harvested. ...Hwang is a pioneer of embryonic stem cell research - and a national hero. ...the government issued a postage stamp in February in his honor that shows an image of growing stem cells juxtaposed with silhouettes depicting a man rising from a wheelchair, walking, and embracing another person.
Hwang Woo Suk, Professor of Veterinary Science, Seoul National University, South Korea
The patient’s lower limbs were paralyzed after an accident in 1985 damaged her lower back and hips. Afterward she spent her life in bed or in a wheelchair. ..."The stem cell transplantation was performed on Oct. 12 this year and in just three weeks she started to walk with the help of a walker," Song said.
...The team was co-headed by Chosun University professor Song Chang-hun, Seoul National University professor Kang Kyung-sun and Han Hoon, Ph.D, from the Seoul Cord Blood Bank (SCB). ...Professor Kang and Han, ...noted the new therapy has a huge upside potential when applied to real treatments, without arousing ethical disputes. ...In other transplantation operations, just a slight mismatch based on the human leukocyte antigen test would cause a catastrophic result due to immune system’s resistance.
Korean Scientists Succeed in Stem Cell Therapy
15 December 2005.
At least nine of 11 stem cell colonies used in a landmark research paper by Dr Hwang Woo-suk were faked, said Roh Sung-il, who collaborated on the paper.
Dr Hwang wants the US journal Science to withdraw his paper on stem cell cloning, Mr Roh said.
S Korea stem cell success 'faked'
27 December 2005
Hwang, ...apologized for the fabrication and stepped down as professor at the university. He insisted, however, that his team has developed the technology to create patient-matched stem cells.
Hwang Insists He Developed the Technology to Create Patient-Matched Stem Cells
Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Actually, I think that we are a long way off from extending useful life and by useful life, I mean such that one is healthy and able.
Still, the research for such a goal will continue, regardless of whatever resistance there is from the establishment. ..
Grady wrote: Actually, I think that we are a long way off from extending useful life and by useful life, I mean such that one is healthy and able. As it is, those who live to be 80, can expect about a 50% chance of developing Alzheimer's and this disease does not seem to be related to a person's general health, although there are many lifestyle corollaries and a very large genetic component.
Herbert Weissbach, Ph.D.
Oxidative damage caused by production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells has been implicated in a large number of diseases, including age related neurodegenerative diseases. ROS can damage macromolecules such as nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. In proteins methionine (met) is readily oxidized to methionine sulfoxide (met(o)). The main focus of our research concerns the role of the methionine sulfoxide reductase system (Msr) in protecting cells against oxidative damage. There are at least 6 members of the Msr family that can reduce met(o), either free or in peptide linkage, back to met. Thus far one of the enzymes, MsrA has been studied in most detail. MsrA knock outs make organisms more sensitive to oxidative stress and transgenic experiments in Drosophila have shown that over expression of MsrA in neurons can extend the life expectancy by 70%. Other results support the concept that the Msr system is important in preventing neuronal death due to oxidative damage. Our goal is to develop new drugs that will act as catalytic anti-oxidants by being substrates for the Msr system, or to find ways to increase the levels of MsrA and other members of the Msr family in cells. Hopefully these studies will lead to new therapies for neurodegenerative and other diseases that involve oxidative damage. Florida Biotech Also Florida Biotech 2
Originally posted by Long Lance
so, to paraphrase, the quest is for permanent youth rather than prolongation of suffering, right?
At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year (1,2). From 1915 through 1997, the infant mortality rate declined greater than 90% to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and from 1900 through 1997, the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to less than 0.1 reported death per 1000 live births (7.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1997) (3) (Figure 1 and Figure 2). Environmental interventions, improvements in nutrition, advances in clinical medicine, improvements in access to health care, improvements in surveillance and monitoring of disease, increases in education levels, and improvements in standards of living contributed to this remarkable decline
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant
by Nick Bostrom
Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed.
The misery inflicted by the dragon-tyrant was incalculable. In addition to the ten thousand who were gruesomely slaughtered each day, there were the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, and friends that were left behind to grieve the loss of their departed loved ones.
Some people tried to fight the dragon, but whether they were brave or foolish was difficult to say. Priests and magicians called down curses, to no avail. Warriors, armed with roaring courage and the best weapons the smiths could produce, attacked it, but were incinerated by its fire before coming close enough to strike. Chemists concocted toxic brews and tricked the dragon into swallowing them, but the only apparent effect was to further stimulate its appetite. The dragon’s claws, jaws, and fire were so effective, its scaly armor so impregnable, and its whole nature so robust, as to make it invincible to any human assault.
Seeing that defeating the tyrant was impossible, humans had no choice but to obey its commands and pay the grisly tribute. The fatalities selected were always elders. Although senior people were as vigorous and healthy as the young, and sometimes wiser, the thinking was that they had at least already enjoyed a few decades of life. The wealthy might gain a brief reprieve by bribing the press gangs that came to fetch them; but, by constitutional law, nobody, not even the king himself, could put off their turn indefinitely.
Spiritual men sought to comfort those who were afraid of being eaten by the dragon (which included almost everyone, although many denied it in public) by promising another life after death, a life that would be free from the dragon-scourge. Other orators argued that the dragon has its place in the natural order and a moral right to be fed. They said that it was part of the very meaning of being human to end up in the dragon’s stomach. Others still maintained that the dragon was good for the human species because it kept the population size down. To what extent these arguments convinced the worried souls is not known. Most people tried to cope by not thinking about the grim end that awaited them.
For many centuries this desperate state of affairs continued. Nobody kept count any longer of the cumulative death toll, nor of the number of tears shed by the bereft. Expectations had gradually adjusted and the dragon-tyrant had become a fact of life. In view of the evident futility of resistance, attempts to kill the dragon had ceased. Instead, efforts now focused on placating it. While the dragon would occasionally raid the cities, it was found that the punctual delivery to the mountain of its quota of life reduced the frequency of these incursions.nickbostrom.com
Originally posted by bodebliss
I don't know , Grady. If they were to unravel the telemeres(above) and the Msr family of antioxdants(below). You could be looking at 120 yrs old and running around like a 40 year old.
Originally posted by sardion2000
Grady have you seen this breakthrough yet?
The argument is not in favor or life-span extension per se. Adding extra years of sickness and debility at the end of life would be pointless. The argument is in favor of extending, as far as possible, the human health-span. By slowing or halting the aging process, the healthy human life span would be extended. Individuals would be able to remain healthy, vigorous, and productive at ages at which they would otherwise be dead.
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant