Okay… so it’s official.  Scientists have found one of the major things that allow you to get old and die… and they’ve been able to reverse the process in mice:

SUNDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) — U.S. scientists say they have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, leading to new brain and testes growth, improved fertility and the return of lost cognitive function, or thinking skills.

The advance in aging science was achieved by working with telomerase genes in the mice, said the team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The researchers developed mice with a controllable telomerase gene. (Telomerase is an enzyme that helps maintain telomeres — the protective “caps” on the ends of chromosomes.) As people age, low levels of telomerase lead to progressive erosion and shortening of the telomeres, resulting in physical and mental decline, the study authors explained in a news release from the institute.

Creating mice with a controllable telomerase switch enabled the scientists to create prematurely aged mice. The switch also enabled the team to determine that reactivating telomerase in the mice could restore telomeres and reduce the signs and symptoms of aging.

In addition, the mice did not show signs of cancer — a key concern because cancer cells can use telomerase to make themselves virtually immortal. Researchers noted that this is an important area of study for future investigation.

So… here’s your question:  How long would you want to live?

100 years?  500? 1000?  Forever?  Could you stand to live forever?  You should think about that question.  It’s not a slam dunk answer.

I mean… what if your spouse or family didn’t make the same choice?  What if your kids decided to die naturally before you did?  And your grandkids, if you had any?  What if you had to be all alone in your extreme longevity?  Could you do it?  And wouldn’t you just get bored after a while?  Seeing the same old patterns erupt in man’s destructive tendencies?  Killing each other over ideas?  And then of course is the fact that man would eventually genetically evolve… while you wouldn’t.  Would you be as smart as new version of man?  Would you be as healthy as a new version of man?  Would you be as resistant to the new and improved evolution of viruses?  What if you were sick all the time throughout eternity?

That said… on the other side of that same coin, what do you think you could accomplish if you had a longer life span to do it within?  Could you help your great-great-great-grandkids to understand what it means to be a good person?  Wouldn’t it be great to bounce them on a still healthy knee?  How interesting would it be for you to be able to see how they turned out as kids in comparison to all the other of your descendants?  And just think about what lessons you could teach them from the past!  Besides that, think about how it might benefit you (sans the great-great-greats) if you had decades and even centuries of experience, wisdom, successes and failures to pull from so as to make your life and your world a better place.  What could you get done with that much time and wisdom?  How could you help the new youngsters who weren’t even 100 years old yet, if you were say… 500 years old?

Crazy question isn’t it?  “How long would you want to live?”

Notice that I phrased the question ‘how long would you want to live’, and not ‘how long do you want to live’.  Because frankly, I don’t think you’ll get a chance to make the choice.  Even if science could bridge the gap between mice and men in your lifetime, they won’t ever make that knowledge public or give you (or anyone else in this video laden world) the option to take the treatment.  If they did, first would arise the moral and ethical questions of who would get the elongated aging treatments.  The richest people?  The smartest?  The most capable leaders and visionaries?  We surely wouldn’t have enough for everyone in the world.  What makes one group or one individual more deserving of the treatment than any other?  Are the rich more deserving because they can pay for it?  Or are the smartest intellectually more deserving because they can help forward the sciences of the future?  How do you even go about making that white and black list?  For instance, if we were simply keep the best of today’s leaders alive, who would decide which partisan candidates would receive the prize?  And where would the room be for fresh new ideas to solve tomorrow’s problems if the same old people were always weighing in on the issues?

And even if you’re a proponent of allowing only the Albert Einsteins and Abe Lincolns, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts of the world to sip of the elixir of longevity,  you are certainly underestimating the power of the human ego to allow most of the public to think they were also worthy of a swig or two.  And  you couldn’t enact a secret plan for the select few and keep that kind of treatment a secret for long.  Eventually, the truth of its existence would get out, and the power of man’s hubris would start people a-fightin’ and a-killin’ for it… and then all hell would break loose.  Investigations would lead to options for the public to gain access, because you couldn’t just put that genie back in the bottle, which would eventually lead the human race into issues of overpopulation and natural resource (including food and water) scarcity (which is coming even without longer lifespans).  That path would throw us into cannibalism for survival.  That’s a whole new can of judgmental worms.

Then of course there’s the issue of the forwarding of divisive ideas all together.  Given the option, nations would race to make longer living idealists.  Religions would race to create longer living influential patriarchs.  Political groups would race to fashion longer entrenched allies in the world’s houses of government.  Life long appointments would take on a whole new meaning.

But then again… you never know.  You might be faced with the decision of how long you would like to live.  After all, man has proven his immense stupidity in the past to unleash uncontrollable things upon the Earth.  And maybe this will be one of them.

So taking all the heavy side effects out of the equation… what if you had an opportunity to make a decision on the length of your life?  Are you for bouncing your descendants on your knee a few centuries from now?  Or do you want top go out with the time table of the genetics God gave you and leave the future to those who come after you?

I’ll provide my answer after we get a few comments.




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