Will Humans ever be able to Live Forever?

Will humans ever be able to live forever?


To live forever and be free to do what you please without the worry of everything coming to an end one day sound like a dream come true. For starters maybe finding a cure for longevity is the same as finding a cure for all disease and illness itself. For the possibilities to live forever, you would need to either eradicate illness itself or find a way to dodge certain biological abnormalities.

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For many years now scientists have been identifying many aspects of our lifestyles and biological makeup which encourages our bodies to age. Lifestyle significantly has a strong impact upon age, as this has evidently been shown throughout history. For example, looking back 200 years ago the life expectancy was in between the 30 and 40 years of age, and in some other countries like South Korea, the average life expectancy was as little as 23 years old. Looking forward to the present day the average life expectancy has doubled, if not tripled in other countries.

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The reason for this rise is mostly due to the way humanity lives, compared to how humans used to live even 100 years ago.  Also our access to food resources, and most importantly our advances and access to medicine around the world. It is also important to remember that when we speak about longevity, we must also take into account that longevity may have its limits in regards to how old we can actually live for. Some scientists already believe that we are close to this figure and believe it to be around 125 years of age. If you look at the oldest person to have ever lived this theory may coincide with her age of 122 years old. However, it is apparent that not every human born on earth is registered at birth, therefore, there may be some humans that have lived way beyond 125 of age, and in fact, there are some tribal people that believe they have lived much older than 125.

                                        

So, what do scientists believe is the key to longevity?

Well, there are many theories, but the main focus seems to be upon four areas, these being your calorie dietary intake, free radicals, human growth hormones and shortening of the telomeres.  

Calorie dietary intake

Reducing your calorie intake from as little as 300 Kcal has been found to have significant effects on extending longevity. Other studies have shown promising signs on alternative fasting with mice which revealed to increase the life span of the mice by up to 25% when compared to the control mice.

Reducing calories is thought to cause an organism to enter hormesis. This basically means the organism has entered a low-intensity stress state. Due to hormesis, the human body begins to emit certain stress responses releasing and producing enzymes and hormones. It is thought that this process occurs allowing the body to undergo a kind of survival state slowing down processes like cellular replication, and mitosis.

Moreover, studies on humans have produced some side effects such as a reduction in muscle mass, bone mineral density and a reduction in body weight. Also, it is extremely easy to enter a state of malnutrition, due to the lack of nutrients usually consumed with the calories that are missing. So,  maybe a few more studies need to be carried out with a much larger subject group to understand the real benefits of a reduction in calories.

Free radicals

A free radial is positively charge and steals electrons from other cellular structures in our cells such as proteins and lipids. They also steal electrons from our DNA and other molecules, temporally damaging the connective bonds. Once damaged due to the loss of electron the molecule will be rendered inactive of function abnormally. Over time the cells don’t replicate and repair as often as usual which tends to weaken the connective tissue, DNA and cells.

It has also been suggested that even breathing in oxygen can create free radicals, speeding up our ageing process. Applying this oxygen has lead scientist to study other mammals like the bowhead whale that lives for as long as 200 years and is exposed to little oxygen levels, by which its cells has adapted to this environment producing a slow growth which may be hidden secrete to long life

Currently, there is a lot of research around anti-oxidants and their link to reduce the number of free radicals due to their electron composition.  Antioxidants are thought to act as the second electron allowing the free radical to be paired up, holding it in a safe place preventing any more cellular damage from occurring.

                                               

Human Growth Hormones

Encouraging childhood growth, maintaining tissues and organs, human growth hormone (HGH) is produced and released in the pituitary gland and is present throughout life. However, as you age the pituitary gland tends to slow down in regards to the amount of HGH it produces. It is this slowing down that has triggered the scientific community. The theory behind this is that by consuming synthetic HGH will restore that missing youth allowing the tissues and organs to be maintained keeping the cells and connective tissue looking young and fresh.

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So, is this really the answer to longevity?

As it stands, studies in relation to HGH and longevity and the evidence to support this matter is very limited and sceptical. In fact, as HGH is growth factors are also classed as steroids. Therefore, you will see an increase in muscle mass, but not strength. This is due to the muscle cells becoming larger as opposed to there be more muscle cells produced. Also, consuming growth factors may also do a lot worse than good, like increasing your risk to cancer, joint and muscle pain, Carpal tunnel syndrome, oedema and for men increase fatty tissue to the breast.

There may in the future be a strong link supporting HGH and ageing, but for now, I would say that HGH is probably not the secrete key to longevity.

Telomeres

Like most people, the word telomeres may be a new word or something you have heard of but not fully come to terms with unless you have studied a little of molecular biology, or a related subject. The best way to describe telomeres is like that cap at the end of your shoelace that protects the ends of the shoelace preventing fraying.

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Due to our DNA being linear, and not circular like prokaryotic DNA, means that the ends of each chromosome are exposed. The telomere caps consist of thousands of repeats of TTAGGG sequences. Having these repeats means that they can be cut off with telomerase every time the DNA is replicated, therefore protecting the important DNA. As the cell ages and the more it replicates the shorter, the telomeres become, eventually the telomeres become too short to do its job and the cell can’t function correctly. Therefore, the telomeres act as an ageing clock for each individual cell.

                                             

The telomeres have been referred to in explaining our biological age as opposed to our chronological age, but there have been strong links between short telomeres and physical ageing as cells replicate less as we age. For example, a link has been found between the weakening of the immune system and age, being sensitive to telomere shortening.

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Scientists studying telomeres have turned their attention to other organisms like jellyfish, lobsters and even Planarian flatworms. For example, a lobster’s death does not coincide with ageing but instead with the environmental or other biological causes. A study looking at their telomerase activity has been shown to dramatically reduce as they age and more importantly, they become more fertile as they age.

Also, when studying the Planarian flatworms, revealed that their telomeres are pretty much limitless. It is the asexual species that regenerate the telomeres during highly proliferative adult stem cells; the sexual species can regenerate their telomeres during reproduction but not enough to become limitless. The evidence is strongly evident when comparing their life spans. The sexual species can live as long as 3 years, whereas the asexual species have been shown to live up to the age of 15 years.

The importance that the study into understanding more about telomeres is definitely the way forward; however, there may be other aspects that still have not been discovered or understood that may also play a key role.

Just a side note, the future of medicine does seem to be trying to solve this conundrum in slightly different ways.  For example, they are becoming extremely close at growing organs from your own stem cells, which would provide a constant supply of new organs and would limit the worry of graft vs host disease.

Also, a lot of focus has been aimed towards technology, producing man-made organs and limbs, Currently, the limbs designed today are very impressive, and there is a lot of funding supplied in this field. Therefore, the future could see the movement of replacing failed organs with robotic man-made organs.  

                                        

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