C. elegans, a roundworm famous in genetics and histology studies, and perhaps the most thoroughly understood multicelluar organism known to science, has taught us a lot about life extension. Recent research has found that by adjusting the genes of C. elegans to inhibit insulin signaling and to remove the worm’s reproductive system multiples the worm’s lifespan sixfold. This is the equivalent of a human living five centuries.
These results may not apply well to mammals or humans, but I am inclined to speculate. Imagine a future where the genes of human zygotes are adjusted in a similar manner. The children and adults that grow from them will eat less and will be sterile–a nice trade-off in this too crowded world.
There are some who complain that funding life extension research is money better spent on other things, such as improving things in the developing world. Or they say that death clears the way for the new thinking of youth, as if the hormone driven stupidity of our adolescence was somehow good for the world.
Well, I’ve got this to say about that. Luddites have been saying stuff like this ever since the emergance of language but, we apes have kept messing with the fire. Nearly every culture has cautionary tales and warnings about hubris but, despite all this we plunge on, open-eyed and levelheaded. I really do think we are learning. We’ve made many mistakes as far as the application of techic but, when you think about it, our record has been pretty good. Of course, I guess we get to be disasterously wrong only once but, I still look to the future with a thrill. I can’t wait.