Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Life Expectancy Has Shot up by 178% in a Century

Renuka Bisht, Hindustan Times Email Author

When he heard that Britain's Queen Mother had died at 101, the News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch is reported to have responded, "An early death!" The diet and exercise conscious septuagenarian plans to be on the topside of the experts who say that the average Australian will live to be 100 by 2050.

Thanks to a complex web of modern innovations in clean water and sanitation, biomedical advances against infectious and parasitic diseases, and improved diets, the developed world has already seen its life expectancy rise by 50 per cent in the last century, exceeding 75 years today. In India, the life expectancy of 64 years may lag behind that of the developed countries but still represents a spectacular 178 per cent jump since 1901 when it was only 23 years.

A position paper on the scientific goals for an ageing world presented at the 2007 conference on healthy living and longevity explains that people who remain physically and mentally functional beyond 100 prove that genes associated with the extension of healthy life already exist in the human genome. If you combine this with the recently found ability to reverse cellular ageing in the laboratory and the promise of stem cells to repair or replace damaged organs, it seems that science’s ability to extend youthful vigour through an extended lifespan is now a plausible goal. Dozens of people have already interred themselves in cryonic chambers, in the hope that technologies of the future will revive them to health.

And new scientific breakthroughs are proliferating. Just last month, the Nature Genetics journal reported the identification of naturally occurring processes allowing many genes to both slow ageing and protect against cancer in animal experiments. Cancer, significantly, is 100 times more likely to attack people at the age of 65 rather than 35

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