The dream of immortality has fired the imagination throughout the ages – but how close is the healthcare industry to realizing this ambition? Read on for a look at some of the major areas of research.
Is it possible to live forever? Since antiquity, people have been searching for the fabled fountain of youth, seeking to prolong a vigorous lifestyle into the ever-after. From Alexander the Great, who conquered most of the known world before dying in 323 BC, to the 16th century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who thought the key to eternal life was in Florida – there has been no shortage of questers searching for the mythical key.
We are living longer than ever these days and past predictions, stating the average length of human life would never go above 90, may have to be revised soon. With lifespans increasing at a seemingly unstoppable rate, a fresh wave of people are taking up the quest for eternal life, asking just how much healthcare can extend our lives.
These guys aren’t looking at fountains in Florida for answers – they’re operating on the cutting edge of the healthcare industry, working with some really intriguing ideas. Among the two most interesting are pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology.
The Easter Island drug
In 2009 the science journal Nature published the results of a study into the effects of a drug called Rapamycin that was shown to prolong the life of mice. The drug was introduced to the rodents when they were 20 months old – the equivalent of 60 in human years. Male mice saw their lifespan grow by 9 per cent, while females enjoyed a 13 per cent boost.
It’s a remarkable property, although the authors of the study have cautioned that there is no way of telling if the drug will have the same effect on humans. What is even more fascinating is the origin of the drug. Rapamycin was originally discovered by Brazilian researchers studying the soil on Easter Island.
The Polynesian island, which is also known as ‘Rapa Nui’, has long been shrouded in an air of mystery with its striking selection of stone-carved heads looking out into the Pacific Ocean a source of much debate through the years. The researchers on Easter Island discovered the bacteria from which Rapamycin is derived in the soil of the intriguing island.
Researchers believe that at best, drugs like Rapamycin may have the potential to extend life by a decade or two, but there is one area of healthcare technology that some believe will be able to do much more than that. The application of nanotechnology to medicine has got some experts very excited about the future of longevity.
Nanotechnology in medicine means operating on the tiniest scale, creating nanoparticles and nano-robots which can target and repair the human body on a cellular level. You could be forgiven for thinking it all sounds like the unlikeliest kind of science fiction and until a few years ago that’s all it was. However, massive strides are being made in the field at a remarkable pace.
Recently, researchers from Washington University in the US showed that nanoparticles carrying bee venom could destroy HIV while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. It’s an incredible finding and the possibilities that further developments in nanotechnology could bring have led to a bold prediction from the esteemed American futurist Ray Kurzweil. In an interview with Computerworld, Kurzweil revealed that he believed nanotechnology was developing so quickly that by 2040 or 2050 anyone alive could be virtually immortal.
Anyone who looks at the history of the quest for eternal life may notice that the pursuit inevitably ends in disappointment. Alexander the Great certainly failed and while Florida’s pleasant climate may lead to a comfortable life, it certainly won’t keep you alive forever.
There are a few things that you can do to extend your life without miracle drugs or futuristic technology though – things that you can start applying to your day to day life which will lead to a healthy and happy old age. Here are a few of them:
- Stay fit and healthy: Studies suggest that daily exercise can add up to three years to your life. Build some form of exercise into your daily routine and you will not only live longer but will have a more fulfilling old age.
- Sleep into old age: Sleeping less than six hours per night has been shown to restrict lifespan. Getting a solid eight hours not only helps you live longer but can increase your mental wellbeing.
- Get your diet right: The things you put into your body play a massive part in your potential longevity so eat a nutritionally balanced diet.
Who wants to live forever?
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote in his Analects: “Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.” Rather than hold out for the possibility of living forever, a better bet is to look at making the most of the years ahead.
When you start to get older, peace of mind is absolutely essential to your quality of life so make sure that everything you need will be taken care of in the event of something happening. Best to check out some cheap life insurance cover, just to make sure everything is looked after – just in case the fountain of youth isn’t discovered in your lifetime!
Would you like to live forever?