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What Life Extension Is and What it Isn’t

120 years old could be the new new normal in the coming century
What Life Extension Is and What it Isn’t
Date Published: 09/27/2022
Date Modified: 09/29/2022
120 years old could be the new new normal in the coming century
 

People call it life extension, rejuvenation, anti-aging, age-reversal, longevity research, geroscience, rejuvenation biotechnology, and even biomedical gerontology, but what exactly is it?

 

What life extension is

While “life extension” is technically correct, it is somewhat more nuanced than simply just increasing lifespan. It describes the development of medical technologies that target aging directly to restore tissue and organs to a more youthful state.

The goal is to make chronologically old and chronologically young people, at every physical level, indistinguishable from one another. If successful the result of this would be the reversal, delay, or prevention of age-related diseases.

Healthy longevity would also be a likely pleasant side effect of rejuvenating an older person. What if you could enjoy a few more decades of healthy life? It would mean more time to spend with loved ones, enjoying hobbies and doing all the other things you love to do.

There are plenty of great reasons why longevity is a positive and desirable thing. Healthy and longer human lives are ultimately the goal of life extension.

What counts as a rejuvenation therapy?

Unfortunately, no single therapy will completely solve aging. There will be no magic bullet when it comes to fixing the damage aging does to our bodies. Because the causes of aging are so broad and interlinked, the technology must be equally broad and comprehensive to bring about rejuvenation.

Aging consists of multiple processes (hallmarks) that gradually cause harm and lead to age-related disease and death. Therapies would need to impact one of these aging processes directly to be considered rejuvenation.

For example, senolytics count as rejuvenation because they eliminate harmful senescent cells, which accumulate with age and are one of the reasons we age.

Stem cell therapies are also rejuvenation because they address stem cell exhaustion, restoring the body’s youthful ability to repair tissues.

Therapies that boost or correct the failing immune system can address altered intercellular communication or stem cell exhaustion, depending on their exact use.

Most products marketed as “anti-aging” or that purport to “rejuvenate” the body do not actually address any of these aging hallmarks. Normally they are bogus products and services that prey on people who do not understand the difference between science and marketing spin.

What life extension isn’t

While most of us can probably agree that healthy longevity is a good thing, there is a big misunderstanding about what it is. It is not about curing death, living forever, or immortality. Such things are likely so far in the future they are beyond our scope, assuming they are even possible.

Even if our field succeeds in bringing the aging processes under medical control, that does not mean death will no longer happen. The Grim Reaper is not going anywhere anytime soon.

At its core, our field is focused on delaying, preventing, and reversing age-related diseases through rejuvenation technologies.

Of course an increased healthy lifespan is the likely result of developing technologies to make people biologically younger. More healthy life is surely a great thing, but that is in no way the same as ending death or immortality.

People frequently mix up the defeat of aging with the defeat of death. This gives entirely the wrong impression about what our field is doing, and so it is important to understand the difference between the two.

In a nutshell, our field is developing medicine. Sure, novel and advanced forms of medicine that address aging, but it is still medicine.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.

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