Aging has plagued biological organisms since life first began on planet Earth and it’s an accepted and universally understood part of life. Sure, things like climate change pose significant threats to society, but aging will almost certainly still exist even if we ever manage to stop damaging our environment.
That said, scientists aren’t the kind of people who just live with the cards life has dealt them, and are especially likely to use their understanding of the world to solve difficult and seemingly impossible problems — like aging.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey is one such person. Through the co-founding of the SENS Research Foundation and his role as chief science officer, de Grey has set out to end biological aging. The foundation’s “About” page makes it clear that de Grey believes “a world free of age-related disease is possible.”
Speaking at a Virtual Futures event in London on Wednesday, Inverse confirmed that de Grey truly believes in this goal, even going so far as to boldly state that the first person that will live to be 1,000 years-old has already been born. He also thinks science will have found a way to perfect anti-aging treatments within the next 20 years.
This year alone, there have already been significant breakthroughs in the realm of anti-aging research. In August, researchers discovered a molecule capable of combating the effects of aging. In October, a new stem cell treatment led to “striking” ant-aging results.
Much more recently are the efforts made by researchers from the University of Exeter, who developed a way to reverse aging in cells, as well as the discovery of an anti-aging genetic mutation. This is all good news, especially when you take into account de Grey’s belief that aging is one of humanity’s biggest challenges.
“The fact is, aging kills 110,000 people worldwide every fucking day,” de Grey reportedly said. “It unequivocally causes far more suffering than anything else that we have to experience and contrary to the impression that most of humanity has forced itself into, it’s indeed a problem which is amenable through technological intervention.”
According to the United Nations, the population of those aged 60 and older is expected to more than double by 2050 — increasing from 962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050.
If or when humanity determines how to reject aging, de Grey foresees the development of rejuvenation clinics that will address seven issues related to aging: tissue atrophy, cancerous cells, mitochondrial mutations, death-resistant cells, extracellular matrix stiffening, extracellular aggregates, and intracellular aggregates.
Unsurprisingly, such clinics — and, presumably, other treatments — are expected to be expensive at first before potentially becoming more publicly accessible and affordable. By then, perhaps anti-aging treatments might be as simple to get as scheduling a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, though who can say how involved such treatments and processes will be.
Beyond implementation into society, de Grey thinks it will be difficult for politicians to get elected unless they committed to anti-aging.
“Not only in getting the therapy developed as quickly as possible, but also putting in place the infrastructure,” de Grey added.
It’s entirely understandable why many wouldn’t want to age beyond a certain point, as losing control of one’s body can be frustrating, painful, and debilitating. We seem to be on the verge of solving the anti-aging problem, however, but only time will tell if it’s what’s best for humanity.