Friday, May 4, 2018

How does science bring immortality to reality?

Ponce de Leon's quest for a fountain of eternal youth can be a legend, but the basic idea - the search for a cure for old age - is quite real. People tried to crack the code of eternal youth almost from the very beginning of mankind. We tried everything we could imagine, from magical objects and epic journeys to sacrifices and the use of blood (also invented monsters who live forever, drinking blood). There was only a matter of time when science would get involved in these searches, and, you know, she managed to make some real steps in this direction.

The scientific search for immortality

Aging, at the molecular level, does not make any sense. Our bodies continuously create new cells and restore our natural defenses, but we are all the same getting old. Entropy takes the best of us, and we accept it as inevitable, although science has made an enormous step forward, increasing our life expectancy. Over the last century, life expectancy has increased, and people in developed countries can live for about 80 years, which is much more than 47 years in 1900. This increase is mainly due to advances in curing childhood diseases, but it also led to the rise in chronic diseases in old age. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease are serious problems, and each of them is treated individually or not treated at all. It would be much easier to just swallow a pill and activate the body's resources.

Scientists are well aware of these problems and are continually experiencing various methods to restore the viability of the human body. Restoring homeostasis - or the ability of the body to independently stabilize its systems in response to stress like physical activity, hot or cold weather, high or low illumination - is the primary direction. The human body is first and foremost a complex biological machine, and old age is, in fact, a mechanical problem that must be dealt with.

And if the solution to this problem is to keep people healthy and free of illness for as long as possible, then science has an excellent chance of coping with it.
The biggest scoundrel who prevents us from living for a long time is the telomerase enzyme. Discovered by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn (who received the Nobel Prize for her discovery), telomerase repeats DNA sequences at the end of a chain of chromosomes that cover each chain and determine the beginning of the next. She is responsible for telling our cells when to stop growing, and each time the string is wrapped, a small part of the cell's information about how to rebuild is lost. As a result, scientists are looking for ways to prevent loss or activate telomerase when it can not fight aging at the molecular level.
Nevertheless, science did not always know that the problem lies in telomerase, so other solutions were offered during the scientific history. Aviator Charles Lindberg tried to deceive death in search of a way to replace our bodies with machines, similar to those that doctors use in modern medicine for temporary lung replacement. Cloning, cyborgs, nanotechnical cell repair and 3D printed organs are a continuation of Linberg's line of thought, which is hard to call incorrect. In any case, all these methods rely primarily on the replacement of parts of the body, rather than stopping aging.
Science fiction writers often suggest downloading the human brain to the computer and thereby achieving immortality, and the science of the real world says that it is entirely possible. The so-called "whole brain emulation" will allow scientists to advance us to this form of immortality, and in the future to create neural devices that will allow us to work with the human body just like our brains, and hence create an "external brain." Science fiction also suggested to us the idea of cryogenic preservation of the human body by slowing the metabolism and saving resources - in other words, freezing. But this measure is more protective, rather than a crucial problem.

Ongoing research

Scientists at the University of California in San Francisco have successfully turned the effects of aging and old age diseases in mice by infusing the blood of young mice in the past. In particular, they found that the blood of a 3-month-old mouse reverses the age-related decline in memory, learning, and brain functions in an 18-year-old mouse (equivalent to a 70-year-old man). The scientists also found that when they injected only plasma in older mice, they increased endurance and motor function, becoming one level with their 3-month-old peers. Scientists have even been able to determine a chemical signal, a specific protein that acts as the primary regulator of the brain and whose activity rises with young blood. However, the fact is that there is no particular mechanism or medication that will solve all the problems with aging - and its something the scientists plan to find

Silicon Valley is the main center of scientific work on aging. Google has created Calico Labs to tackle the reversal of aging and the creation of drugs that will help our biology. Human Longevity is focused on building a database of 1 million sequences of human genomes by 2020 to improve the quality of the fight against aging. The Palo Alto Longevity Prize awards, each at $ 500,000, were awarded for "innovations in the recovery of the body's homeostatic ability" and "promoting the prolongation of a stable and healthy life." The declared goals of all such companies are to develop methods for combating aging and old age diseases individually, but in fact, they all bring us closer to immortality.

Why does the Silicon Valley participate in this? Aubrey de Gray, one of the pioneers of the industry, believes that successful medicine to combat aging has the potential to become "the largest industry ever to exist with great opportunities for generating profit."

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