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In search of slowing the natural process of aging, researchers have been studying the processes at the centre of how we age from multiple angles and with a growing arsenal of advanced technologies, from therapeutics to “prime editing” at the DNA level. The year 2022 sees a major breakthrough from a multi-factor approach, as a cocktail of treatments is put together that tweaks cell-level processes in order to extend their life and thus the life of the organism composed of those cells. It’s not cheap, but it’s effective and has already been demonstrated on laboratory mice containing human DNA, extending their lives some 30% and more. The implication for humans is the possibility that average life expectancy can be extended by 25 years or more, and with it the incredible prospect in the future that age 80 will be the new 50. Not only that, but this future is open to older humans too as the new fountain of youth treatment can slow and even rejuvenate already old cells.
Not only do life expectancy improvements come via longer life, but also through reduction and even elimination of most human diseases—from heart disease to neuro-degenerative disorders—many of which are responsible for the decline in health and productivity as we age. This is made possible by the prime editing of DNA approach, which doesn’t rely on new cells via division but actually rewrites existing cells.
The prospect of a massive leap in human quality of life and life expectancy are huge wins for mankind, but bring an enormous ethical and financial quandary. Imagine that almost everyone can look forward to living to an average age of 115 and more healthily. What would this mean for private and government pensions, or even the ability or desire to retire? And what about the cost to the planet if it is set to support billions more people, not to mention whether or not there is enough food to go around? And then there is the ethical question of whether it is humane to not make the cocktail available to everyone. In short, how would our value systems, political systems and planet cope?
See next 2022 prediction:
The plan to end of fossil fuels gets a rain check