This refers to “Understanding the process of ageing” by Devangshu Datta (September 27). The standards in modern medicine are allowing us to live longer than ever before. The interest is not in extending life by days or weeks, but by decades and even centuries. Mortality will then be optional.
The science of extending life has been a subject of fascination down the centuries including the biblical Methuselah. Old billionaires being cryogenically frozen is not a fantasy any longer with many options available now to freeze our bodies with the hope that some time in future, science will revive them. Some cynics express that they would rather be buried in a cemetery than in a refrigerator. The Silicon Valley billionaires, venture capitalists and investors including Jeff Bezos, PayPal Co-founder Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Elon Musk of Tesla and Craig Venter are all interested and pouring money into the science of senolytics — an emerging anti-ageing medicine.
The idea of technologically enhancing our bodies is not new. Implants like prosthetics and stents have improved our lifespans and in future, may enhance our senses by merging man and machine. Science may then produce humans who have vastly increased intelligence, strength, and lifespan. Some drugs under evaluation are metformin, an old and established diabetes drug. It has become popular among life extensionists and is sometimes referred to as “the aspirin of anti-ageing”. Another potential drug is rapamycin normally used to aid organ transplants and treat rare cancers. Many of the world’s top gerontologists have demonstrated the possibilities in animals and are now beginning human clinical trials. Current recommendation till these pills are in use is a healthy diet by reducing the amount of animal protein one consumes. The association between low protein intake and longevity is well established. Ideally this protein should be from plants.
H N Ramakrishna, Bengaluru
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