Since the earliest days of humankind, there have been myths and tales of Gods finding ways to become immortal. There’s Gilgamesh, the titular king in an epic that dates back to 2,000 BCE, sought a longevity-granting plant; the Greek legend of Tithonus (who asked Zeus for eternal life but forgot eternal youth), Ponce de Leon (who ventured to new lands in search of the fountain of youth), Dorian Gray (who sold his soul for eternal youth).
Fast forward, Especially, in the last 100 years, with the advent of healthcare, less wars, the increase in welfare and overall educated world population, the lifetime of humans doubled on average from below 40 to up to 80 and more.
More recently, with global internet and technology businesses gaining momentum, especially billionaires from Silicon Valley focused their attention to anti-aging led by a few companies, especially Calico backed by Alphabet, which was launched in 2013.
The Top Immortality Companies in Silicon Valley
Calico Labs. Founded by Google, established in 2014, Calico Labs’ stated mission is “tackling aging”. The company’s founder and CEO, Arthur Levinson, is also the chairman of Apple. Calico Labs had an undisclosed investment from Google and the progress has not been made public.
Arthur Levinson wrote “we will explore the basic biology of aging and develop new medicines for patients with aging-related diseases” in a 2014 post.
Human Longevity Inc. Co-founded by leading geneticist Craig Venter, also hired serious scientists and have strong bonds with major pharmaceutical companies. The company raised $220 million.
The goal of Human Longevity is to build the world’s most comprehensive database on human genotypes and phenotypes, and then subject it to machine learning so that it can help develop new ways to fight diseases associated with aging.
Calico and HLI don’t view each other as threats. Instead, Craig Venter says “our approach can help Calico immensely and if their approach is successful it can help me live longer. We hope to be the reference center at the middle of everything.”
Palo Alto Longevity Prize. The Palo Alto Longevity Prize (the “Prize”) is a $1 million life science competition dedicated to ending aging. Ours is one of a growing number of initiatives around the world pursuing this goal—the more shots on goal the better.
Approach to Mortality: Aging is a Disease
The mainstream position in the research community is that aging is caused by an accumulation of various forms of unrepaired cellular and tissue damage.
Basic Causes of Aging and Mortality
- Some tissues steadily lose cells that are not replenished and thus progressively fail in their functions with advancing age, such as the heart and areas of the brain.
- Mutations and other haphazard alterations to our nuclear DNA occur throughout life, raising the risk of suffering just the right combination of mutations somewhere in the body that creates a cancerous cell, one that replicates uncontrollably to form tumors.
- Some of the proteins outside our cells, such as those vital to artery walls and skin elasticity, are created early in our life and never recycled or recycled very slowly.
- As we age, a small handful of different proteins misfold and accumulate outside cells in clumps and fibrils known as amyloid.
- A few forms of hardy waste product build up within long-lived cells, such as those of the nervous system, impairing cellular housekeeping functions and ultimately preventing a cell from doing its job or causing it to malfunction.
How can Medical Science Reverse Aging?
If aging is caused by damage, then reversal of aging – rejuvenation – can be achieved by repairing that damage.
We Need to Cure Aging as if It were a Disease
All of the aging damage to our cells have solutions, therefore, if aging is a disease, then, as we repair the causes, we can avoid aging indefinitely.
George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School says “If you can control both the environment and the genetics, you can get people that live youthful healthy lives for exceptionally much longer than others. In industrialised nations, most of the diseases are due to age-related diseases and I think those too can be handled.”
But regardless of how it is achieved, extending human lifespans by decades or even hundreds of years will present us with some difficult social realities.
Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former Facebook President, said:
“The disparity of wealth in the United States will create a “class of immortal overlords,” at a cancer innovation event last November. “Because I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have access to better healthcare so… I’m going to be, like, 160 and I’m going to be part of this class of immortal overlords.”
Just like artificial intelligence, the progress for longevity with the current investment, potential business, ever increasing genome technology is inevitable and there will be ethical questions whether the democracy of living a normal length of life is sacrificed for the ultra wealthy at least in our lifetime.
We can certainly expect a breakthrough treatment or even a pill extending our lifetime in the coming decade and that may just be the beginning of curing the disease called aging.