Achieving longevity

Tom James @ 08-07-2009

moai_profileThere always seems to be some intriguing news on progress in extending lifespans, or achieving what Aubrey De Grey calls engineered negligible senescence. From Physorg we have news that a compound called rapamycin, first discovered on Easter Island, can increase the lifespans of laboratory mice:

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and two collaborating centers reported that the Easter Island compound – called “rapamycin” after the island’s Polynesian name, Rapa Nui – extended the expected lifespan of middle-aged mice by 28 percent to 38 percent. In human terms, this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life if cancer and heart disease were both cured and prevented.

Protein folding in certain species of bats has been found to lead to an increase in their lifespans:

Asish and colleagues made their discovery by extracting proteins from the livers of two long-lived bat species (Tadarida brasiliensis and Myotis velifer) and young adult mice and exposed them to chemicals known to cause protein misfolding. After examining the proteins, the scientists found that the bat proteins exhibited less damage than those of the mice, indicating that bats have a mechanism for maintaining proper structure under extreme stress.

And finally the curious case of Brooke Greenberg: who is the size of an infant, with the mental capacity of a toddler, but turned 16 in January:

In a recent paper for the journal “Mechanisms of Ageing and Development,” Walker and his co-authors, who include Pakula and All Children’s Hospital (St. Petersburg, Fla.) geneticist Maxine Sutcliffe chronicled a baffling range of inconsistencies in Brooke’s aging process. She still has baby teeth at 16, for instance. And her bone age is estimated to be more like 10 years old.

“There’ve been very minimal changes in Brooke’s brain,” Walker said. “Various parts of her body, rather than all being at the same stage, seem to be disconnected.”

A substantial increase in human lifespans would be a huge, world-changing, medical and technological achievement, but could well lead to many social problems. An excellent exploration of the effects of longevity is Bruce Sterling‘s sublime Holy Fire.

[from Physorg and abcnews][image from anoldent on flickr]

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One Response to “Achieving longevity”

  1. Deborah Teramis Christian says:

    Thanks for that roundup of recent science on this issue. I’m thinking through some of the social implications of longevity, and recently posted about that here, using the case of Brooke Greenberg as a jumping off point. Brings up a lot of interesting issues, that’s for sure.