Life expectancy

We Can't Cheat Aging and Death, Claims New Study

We'll see about that, say anti-aging researchers.

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Human beings and other primates all inevitably age at fixed rates, according to a new study in Nature Communications. "Human death is inevitable," one of the researchers concludes gloomily in the accompanying press release. "No matter how many vitamins we take, how healthy our environment is or how much we exercise, we will eventually age and die."

The study aims to test the "invariant rate of aging" hypothesis, which posits that the rate of aging is relatively fixed within species. Bodies break down as their tissue and genetic repair mechanisms fail at species-typical rates, leading inevitably to death. The researchers explore this hypothesis by comparing patterns of births and deaths in nine human populations and 30 non-human primate populations, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and baboons living in the wild and in zoos. Their results, they report, imply the existence of "biological constraints on how much the human rate of ageing can be slowed."

To reach this conclusion, Fernando Colchero of the University of Southern Denmark and his team looked at the relationship between life expectancy—that is, the average age at which individuals die in a population—and lifespan equality, which measures how concentrated deaths are around older ages.

If deaths are evenly distributed across age groups, the researchers explain, "the result is high lifespan variation and low lifespan equality. If however, deaths are concentrated at the tail-end of the lifespan distribution (as in most developed nations), the result is low lifespan variance and high lifespan equality."

Human life expectancy has been increasing at the rate of about three months per year since the 19th century. The researchers report that most of that increase has been "driven largely by changes in pre-adult mortality." In the accompanying press release, Colchero notes that "not only humans, but also other primate species exposed to different environments, succeed in living longer by reducing infant and juvenile mortality. However, this relationship only holds if we reduce early mortality, and not by reducing the rate of ageing."

Historically, about 1 in 4 children died before their first birthdays and nearly half died before reaching adulthood. Globally, only 1 out 35 children today don't make it to their first birthday. The reduction of early adult deaths from accidents, natural disasters, and infectious diseases has also contributed to longer life expectancies. Consequently, global average life expectancy has more than doubled from just 31 years in 1900 to around 73 years now. Since more people are now dying at older ages, global lifespan equality has been increasing.

In the United States, average life expectancy at birth was 47 years in 1900; back then, only 12 percent of people could expect to live past age 65. Over the past 12 decades, life expectancy at birth in the U.S. has increased by 30 years; life expectancy at age 60 has risen by only 7 years. In 2014, U.S. life expectancy reached a high of 78.9 years before stalling out due to the rising deaths from despair among middle-aged whites and then from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 88 percent of Americans can expect to reach 65 years of age.

Why do all animals, including human beings, age? One popular theory for how species-typical rates of aging emerge is that individuals are selected by nature so that they can keep their health long enough to reproduce and get the next generation up to reproductive snuff. If a body invests a lot of energy in repairing itself, it will reduce the amount of energy it can devote to reproduction. Thus, natural selection favors reproduction over individual longevity.

"Understanding the nature and extent of biological constraints on the rate of ageing and other aspects of age-specific mortality patterns is critical for identifying possible targets of intervention to extend human lifespans," the researchers note. Colchero optimistically adds: "Not all is lost. Medical science has advanced at an unprecedented pace, so maybe science might succeed in achieving what evolution could not: to reduce the rate of ageing."

The good news is that a lot of promising research on anti-aging and age-reversal interventions is advancing rapidly. In December, researchers at the University of San Francisco reported that a small molecule drug achieved rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells. Another December study found that dosing aged mice with a molecule called prostaglandin E2 can activate muscle stem cells to repair damaged muscle fibers, making the mice 20 percent stronger after one month of treatment. As we age, senescent cells accumulate and secrete molecules that cause various age-related diseases. Researchers are working on senolytic compounds that would help restore youthful vigor by clearing out these senescent cells.

The transhumanist biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey, co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation, argues that anti-aging research is on the trajectory to achieve that he calls "longevity escape velocity." That's when the annual rate of increase in life expectancy exceeds 12 months for every year that passes. De Grey recently tweeted that he thinks that there is a 50 percent chance that humanity will reach longevity escape velocity by 2036. If so, our species may finally be able to cheat aging and death.

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  1. sweet. I *really* don’t want to not be.

    1. And like the hen on Chicken Run: “I don’t want to be a pie!…I don’t like gravy!”

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    2. To reach this conclusion, Fernando Colchero of the University of Southern Denmark and his team looked at the relationship between life expectancy more detail open this link…….click here.

  2. Read that Haldeman book, every time he comes back the people on Earth keep getting weirder. No thanks.

    1. As long as it’s a good weird, I wouldn’t mind. Avocado toast isn’t too weird, but forcing me to partake and requiring a Hipster Uniform would be.

  3. individuals are selected by nature so that they can keep their health long enough to reproduce and get the next generation up to reproductive snuff.

    So we’re arguing that we now HAVE to live forever…

    1. Not that everybody has to, of course, but if others don’t want to, it means more for those that do.

  4. As we age, senescent cells accumulate and secrete molecules that cause various age-related diseases. Researchers are working on senolytic compounds that would help restore youthful vigor by clearing out these senescent cells.

    My understanding is that the DNA in your body ‘frays’ at the ends over time which is a major factor in the aging process. And I recall this because when they cloned “dolly the sheep”, what they ended up with was a new, baby sheep that started to experience a rapid onset of aging as if she were the same age as her ‘mother’. Yes, she was just born, but she had the “shorter” DNA strand of a much older animal– because the DNA they copied was “old”.

    1. Although I could be wrong:

      Dolly, cloning’s poster child, was born in Scotland in 1996. She died prematurely in 2003, aged six, after developing osteoarthritis and a lung infection, raising concerns that cloned animals may age more quickly than normal offspring.

      Now researchers have allayed those fears by reporting that 13 cloned sheep, including four genomic copies of Dolly, are still in good shape at between seven and nine years of age, or the equivalent of 60 to 70 in human years.

      1. There are these repeat sequences of DNA bad pairs at the ‘end’ of the chromosome called telomeres, every time your cells divide, a base pair gets cleaved from the ‘end’ and when that line of cells reaches the point where there are none of these base pairs left then they will be forced to undergo apoptosis by some clean up mechanism in the body.

        I’m more of a chemist than a biologist, but that’s my understanding of the subject.

        1. That should be ‘base’ in the first line, not ‘bad’.

          1. There is vigorous debate in the field about what actually causes aging. Various studies have found links to telomere shortening, DNA damage, epigenetic damage, gene over/under-expression, and accumulation of senescent cells.

        2. Even if this is responsible for aging (and I’ve seen it suggested but not proven), somehow reproduction involves producing DNA with ample telomeres, because otherwise lifespans would get shorter and shorter over time. So there must be a way to add telomeres to DNA.

  5. The conclusion of the article can be summarized as, “Up until now, increase in average primate lifespans have been primarily due to reductions in child mortality.”

    That’s it.

    It say nothing about the fundamental process of aging nor the potential of anti-ageing therapeutics to extend human lifespans or even reverse aspects of aging.

    The article is a big yawn.

    1. Agreed. I don’t think anyone thought we were going to defeat aging by natural selection. So what? All of our medical advances have had no concern for natural selection. Why would anti-aging advances be any different?

  6. If the two certainties in life are death and taxes, I’d much prefer eliminating the former.

    1. Damn it! I meant the latter.

      1. Too late. now go bang your daughter-in-law

        1. >Too late. now go bang your daughter-in-law

          You know, this doesn’t even need context and I think it’s the most classically internety comment I’ve read all week.

          1. “context”

            The guy knows his Heinlein… almost. It wasn’t my daughter-in-law, it was my daughter’s friend.

            Or, he was just making a very internety comment.

            Either way, well done.

            1. And on top of all that (so to speak)…you lived!

      2. You could just outlive all the tax collectors and achieve both.

  7. Might. Would. Really Would. (Though the order is flexible.)

  8. I think Vaclav Smil puts the maximum human lifespan at about 122 years, and doesn’t have much confidence in that number getting appreciably higher. He was more optimistic about our ability to improve upon marathon race performance and successfully predicted breaking the 2 hour barrier, which was achieved a couple year ago. The first modern marathons (1896 Olympic games) were run in about 3 hours. Over the same period women marathon runners have more than doubled their speed from over 5 hours to about 2 and a quarter today.

    http://library.lol/main/CD80AE448A10BFD4946FC633CB2D7585

    1. What about robotic/android/cyborg advances?

      1. Maximum laptop lifespan is about 10 years. Cars, refrigerators, a little bit more. Robots etc should be in the same ball park.

        1. Maximum laptop lifespan is about 10 years

          Provably false.

          1. Average lifespan is about 5 years. After 10 years of normal use, the hardware is hopelessly outdated, the battery is kaput, the keyboard begins to fail etc. Unlike desktops, laptops are not designed with longevity in mind.

            The maximum lifespan of a human is about 122 years and don’t expect it to get any longer. Maximum height is about 272 cm, and don’t expect us to get any taller.

            1. But this misses the point a bit. Much like the notion that people buy drills for want of a hole, the laptop isn’t exactly the comodity, the computing is. Enhancing the human body is half the goal of cybernetics, the other half is plying the human mind’s interoperability.

              Also, I have a white Macbook Pro, circa 2008, that saw daily professional use for almost a decade and will still browse the web just fine. Of course, it doesn’t perform as well as more modern systems and I don’t do anything mission critical on it without backing it up somewhere else but, that’s kinda the point.

              1. “But this misses the point a bit.”

                It doesn’t miss the point at all. Maximum human life span is 122 years. Robot life span will be a fraction of that, as illustrated with laptops, cars, refrigerators, and just about anything but the simplest mechanical contrivance, your quibbling notwithstanding.

                1. All of these devices have the lifespan that you attribute to them because they become obsolete due to the steady march of scientific, technological, and design progress. Sure, they wear out, but certainly not in 10 years. I’ve driven vehicles that are well over 70 years old and still function just fine.

                  Even if individual devices wear out quickly, that doesn’t mean that the data that they host does. For instance, the World Wide Web is now more than 30 years old. I highly doubt that a single computer used in the early days of the Internet is still in use. Yet the data remains. I see no reason that cybernetic hardware can’t progress in the same manner.

                  1. ” I’ve driven vehicles that are well over 70 years old and still function just fine.”

                    These vehicles are probably like those ‘ancient’ Japanese temples, every stick of which has been replaced dozens of times, and there’s nothing older in the whole structure than a century at best.

                    “Yet the data remains. ”

                    I agree. We have Sumerian cuneiforms that date back to the dawn of civilization and the data is still as meaningful as it when it was set aside to dry. Same cannot be said of Egyptian papyrus, though. As for cybernetic hardware, economic imperatives dictate that for schlubs like us, the planned obsolescence built into everything that’s around us will be there too.

                    1. These vehicles are probably like those ‘ancient’ Japanese temples, every stick of which has been replaced dozens of times, and there’s nothing older in the whole structure than a century at best.

                      As for cybernetic hardware, economic imperatives dictate that for schlubs like us, the planned obsolescence built into everything that’s around us will be there too.

                      You are aware that your stomach lining turns over approximately every 6 days, that 95% of the cells in your body turn over in a year, and that if you don’t meet the economic imperatives to maintain that turnover, you die, right?

                    2. “You are aware that your stomach lining turns over approximately every 6 days, that 95% of the cells in your body turn over in a year,”

                      That’s nothing to do with economic imperatives or the profit motive. Your body is run according to a play on the nature nurture dynamic.

                      Also the obsessive refurbishing of a Japanese temple over many centuries is due to a desire to maintain craftsmanship and done out of reverence for tradition and its position in the culture. It’s not about making a fast mark or yen or buck or a pound.

                    3. and then someone had to go all ship of theseus on us…

      2. Hi MT-Man

        mtrueman is a lefty. If you ask them anything they don’t know the answer to they will become snarky and will try to deflect by making fun of the question.

        You are welcome.

        1. “If you ask them”

          I am a him, not a them.

  9. A new study comparing data from nine human populations and 30 populations of non-human primates says that we are probably not cheating the reaper. The researchers say the increase in human life expectancy is more likely the statistical outcome of improved survival for children and young adults, not slowing the aging clock.

  10. We are mortals, we will always be mortals. While we have made progress in longevity, it will never be infinite. There are two many people on this planet right now, living longer will only be disastrous.

  11. “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

    Again, the focus on aging is stupid. Even if you work out all the bugs (and assuming you ignore your odds of being hit by a bus, slipping in the tub, choking, etc.), you’re still talking about attempting to bring an Intel 486 PC into the modern age of computing. The human brain wasn’t meant to store and process thousands of years of experience and information directly. You would have to augment it. At which point, it becomes a very valid question, even internally, are you actually you or just some hell-bent, self-preserving, literally-inhuman monster? Even if you get past that and manage to back up your consciousness to Github so that you’re free to explore all your own forks and branches as you see fit, you’re still competing with other like minds exploring their own forks and branches for resources to “survive”.

    1. We already augment our intelligence regularly. You’re discussing high-level futurism concepts with strangers thousands of miles away. All while you have the ability to instantly read the thoughts of some of the smartest people ever to walk the planet. We live in the age of networked intelligence. What’s problematic about augmenting the nodes that make up that network?

      1. All while you have the ability to instantly read the thoughts of some of the smartest people ever to walk the planet.

        Read a filtered and translated portion of the thoughts under the assumption that they are genuine and that the filtering and translation didn’t fundamentally alter them that is.

        The survival of the species, intellectual or otherwise, isn’t guaranteed. If you’re willing to look past potential extinction at the hands of our progeny, whether through intellectual corruption via fake news or borg-like assimilation, then yeah I guess there are no problems.

        However, please be aware that many, many others may regard it as a problem because of their fear of others’ desire to assimilate them, and fewer, at least openly anyway, for their recognition of their own ability or need to assimilate others.

        The problem isn’t the upgrading, the problem is the idea or assertion/promise that upgrading automatically frees you from any/all competition.

  12. But we can greatly influence the improvement of our health. Now the creators of dietary supplements have all the opportunities to produce a high-quality product, there is useful information about this here https://www.privatelabelexpress.com/private-label-ashwagandha/ . And we can only use all possible benefits correctly, because the quality of life directly affects its duration

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