How to cure aging?

In ancient times people were seeking immortality or life after death and today medicine and technologies have focused on new challenge

09:00 | 30 септември 2022
Снимка: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg
Снимка: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg


Roselina Petkova

Since the dawn of time people seek the immortality formula. Since the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations myths for the immortality have been passed down and all of them are related to presenting gifts to the Gods, mummification of the pharaohs or with sacrifices. The origin of philosophical movements is still too far from the ancient civilizations, so no one then asked questions and did not cast doubts on their god. On the contrary - they "knew" that the rituals would give them immortality and performed them. No one did it with the thought that today they will perform the ritual and tomorrow they will already be immortal. It was done for the future, for after their death.

With the development of the world these beliefs transfer in one way or another in different religions and traditions. The world continues to develop and acquires totally different shape.  Nowadays philosophers, scientists and experts in new technologies are directing their efforts towards the discovery of remedy against ageing. Medicine has given us a lot. Technologies complement it. Antibiotics and vaccines have been discovered. It has been worked on inventing a cure for incurable  diseases. Exactly this progress leads to the almost doubled extension of human life in the last 150 years. And if Sumerians and Egyptians ‘knew’ they would achieve immortality after death, today we only know one thing – hoar is a disease against which we seek a cure.

The world health organization categorizes ageing as a disease in 2019. According to Avinash Singh,  

lecturer at the Australian Institute of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Technology Sydney, there are several reasons for this decision. "One of them is that when we start to age we show symptoms of senile diseases - heart problems, mental problems, etc. There is a direct link between ageing and disease. So why don't we cure or prevent ageing altogether to avoid the side effect of ageing? In other words, heart disease or mental disorders are just a symptom of the disease of ageing", commented Avinash Singh.

The lecturer says that in the last few years, significant progress has been made in investment and research to extend human life. “Some big famous billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner founded Alto Labs where scientists are developing life extension technology based on cellular reprogramming. Other big names in this race are Peter Diamandis and Craig Venter's Human Longevity Inc, and Google's Calico Life Science LLC, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Around the world, those who are making efforts to prolong human life are many more, and every year new names are added to this list, explains Avinash Singh.

Have you heard of the biogerontologists? In brief: these are people concerned with the biological process of ageing and the potential means of slowing it down. The company Deep Longevity creates tools that enable biogerontologists to study ageing and apply their knowledge to life. "We've developed a number of digital ageing models that can tell if your ageing rate is accelerating and how to slow it down," says Fyodor Galkin, Director of Scientific BD at Deep longevity.

Avinash Singh, explains that at this stage technologies related to biological ageing seem most promising, but many other ways are also being advocated that also have a direct impact on our ageing. “Lifestyle and ageing supplements are quite popular given their availability in the market. "There are currently no medically approved treatments or life-extending technologies available to the public," he added. Avinash Singh also explains that most of the known technologies, such as BioViva, Calico, Alto, etc., are in the early stages of experimentation, which, if successful, must go through a long approval process.

One of the main problems with the attends to extend human life is that ageing is quite complex process, explains Fyodor Galkin from Deep longevity. ‘Apparently ageing does not have one single source and it’s more of a chaotic mixture of damage accumulation, false genetic code, environmental factors, and the statistical impossibility of complex structures in a world that aims to maximize its entropy”, he explains.

Galkin says that even in controlled experiments, it turns out that scientists who may be studying the same phenomenon may be working within completely different systems. "This is particularly clear in cross-species studies of ageing. Different animals and even different species of laboratory mice show seemingly similar signs of ageing. However, the genetic processes behind these observed traits may be much more diverse than most people expect," explains Fyodor Galkin.

According to Avinash Singh, gene therapy is one of the key areas where companies are competing. But there are also other, non-biological methods, such as digital ones. “Digital immortality is often seen as an alternative way to extend human life, preserving human consciousness, memory and experience in a digital platform. There was quite a bit of movement in that direction as well; however, the current limitation of technology has pushed this goal further back in time at the expense of what biological life extension can achieve," adds Avinash Singh.

Despite the fact that the biological extension of human life seems more natural, the digital model may displace it. "Altered Carbon" and "Upload" are good examples of TV series revealing the potential of digitally extending human life, explains Avinash Singh. "In my opinion, digital immortality really achieves what the transhumanism movement is striving for - free will that allows for deep space travel for thousands of years, or resetting one's life to start over," explains Avinash Singh.

The US is currently leading the research and development of anti-ageing technologies, and one of the main reasons may be the interest from the country's tech billionaires. Great Britain and China are immediately behind them. According to Avinash Singh, we may expect some of the first anti-ageing products from the US itself in the next 5-10 years. But what price will we have to pay for this? “Given the trends in medical technology, I suspect it won't be cheap and could cost a fortune. Well, it also raises other ethical questions related to the fact that such a technology will be available only to the rich and may create division in society”, Singh opined. According to him, these technologies should not have patent rights so that more people can access them.