Do you see those wrinkles on your face? Do you feel the fatigue that comes with growing old? Do you fear the inevitability of death? Worry not, scientists have found a way to stop ageing. In fact, some marine animals have already been living for thousands of years.
Can Scientists 'Stop Ageing' and make us live longer?
Back in the 1800s, living beyond the age of 40 was very rare. But today, people live for as long as 122 years. According to Census Bureau, Americans born in 2060 should live an average of 85.6 years, up from 78.7 years in 2018.
Jeanne Calment lived for 122 years and was the oldest person ever to live. She was born on 21st February 1875 and lived in Arles, France. That woman had seen it all – she lived through world wars, the Spanish flu and even met Vincent Van Gogh. She passed away in August 1997, but she knew how to live life well.
She surprisingly took up fencing at the age of 80 and continued to cycle even in her 100s. So, what did she do right? The answer, according to her, is olive oil and chocolate.
Ageing and what constitutes it
Bhagavad Gita says, “Death is certain for one who has been born, and rebirth is inevitable for one who has died.” The cycle of death and rebirth is perpetual and inevitable. Alongside death, ageing is also another inescapable truth.
So, how do humans age? The cells in the body get damaged over time due to metabolic reactions. These metabolic reactions, although necessary, also produce toxic metabolites which accumulate and ultimately cause death.
Ageing is majorly affected by our environment and food. Research shows that ageing is governed by a balance between the environment we are surrounded by, the food we eat, and our genetics.
Our genes are responsible for a 25% possibility of living a long life. Genes affect cell metabolism and slow down the ageing process. For example, you can live longer by doing exercise regularly. Similarly, if you stay happy, you will have low-stress levels. This slows down the development of ageing cells in our body.
Can we Stop Ageing?
Recent research has made scientists believe that they can stop people from ageing. They theorise that once ageing can be controlled, all diseases contracted due to old age will no longer exist. This would make people immortal unless under extraordinary circumstances like accidents.
Aubrey de Grey, a PhD in Biomedical Gerontology, has done some research and has said that the first person to live as long as 1000 years is already amongst us. However, we are yet to find him/her.
De Grey says that longevity is a side effect of health. And it is very accurate. The cause of most deaths is old age and the diseases that catch up to you. If we can stop ageing, these fatal diseases can be avoided and most likely death too.
Grey is the co-founder and chief science officer of the SENS Research Foundation that funds research on pulling the brakes on ageing. She says, “The whole idea of this research is that there will no limit on how long we can keep people healthy.”
National Institutes of Health’s Nathan Shock Centres of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Ageing is conducting a study that hopes to prove ageing is a preventable health condition. The TAME (Targeting Ageing with Metformin) study is designed to do this by demonstrating that metformin, a cheap and widely prescribed pill for diabetes, may also be an anti-ageing elixir.
If this so-called anti-ageing elixir lives up to expectations, then everybody could go on metformin and live a long life.The research is currently in phase III. It is the final step in research before the medicine makers send it to the FDA for approval.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that people who use metformin were less likely to go to hospitals or die due to the virus. How metformin works is not clear yet, but scientists are optimistic that they will find an answer soon.
Nature can possibly Stop Ageing
Why do scientists believe that they can stop ageing or reverse it? The answer is in nature. Nature is the best teacher, and it gave us Turritopsis dohrnii – the immortal jellyfish. This marine animal can cheat death by returning to its polyp stage when it thinks it’s in danger.
Interestingly, this jellyfish isn’t the only marine life that can live for decades, or that can reverse its ageing. Some marine clamps are as old as 500 years. This is why scientists believe that they can stop ageing or reverse it by studying the habits and lives of such organisms.
Scientists have also come up with the idea of using CRISPR, a gene editing tool, to stop this ageing and eventually cure death. In a recent and popular study, scientists used oxygen to test if a pollution-free environment would increase life.
About 35 people were chosen who were 64 years old or above. They received oxygen therapy in a pressurised chamber, and after almost 60 daily sessions, the ageing cells had decreased.