Animals

Can Technology Stop Aging?

In the movie Self/Less, an older man tries to stay young by uploading his consciousness to a younger body. Can we prevent aging?

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In the sci-fi film SELF/LESS, a dying man uses technology to transfer his consciousness to a younger man's body. We discussed how close science is from being able to do this in this episode of DNews, but what if it didn't have to come to that: What if we could just prevent our bodies from aging in the first place? One of the causes of aging is how our cells divide: each time it happens, the ends of our DNA starts to fray, and in some cases this may lead to age-related illnesses like cancer. Like the ends of shoe laces, however, strands of DNA has caps on them called telomeres. Some anti-aging scientists think the key to preventing aging is to preserve these telomeres. We discussed this in detail over in this in this episode of DNews.

What are the technologies in development that could help us live longer? A number of companies and investors have been focusing their attention (and money). PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has invested heavily in a number of companies like SENS, or Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, which is focused on finding a "cure" for aging, and Counsyl, where you could start off with a genetic analysis to see if you or your kids might be at risk for any diseases. Immunosoft is a company that hopes to be able to program our own cells to cure disease. They would take some of your cells, wrap them with a bit of DNA that would code for a protein that you're missing, and then insert them back into your system, giving your body the ability to start producing that protein.

In 2013, Google announced Calico, a company that is focused on fighting aging. While nothing major has come from this company yet, they are partnering up with major universities like Harvard and the University of California. Their partnership with UCLA focused on technology that could modulate the body's stress responses which is known to trigger inflammation, disease and aging. Unfortunately, a lot of this technology is a long way off. If you want to live long enough to see these advances, for now, the best thing you can do is the old standbys: get plenty of exercise, eat right, and don't smoke. If the technology did exist, would you want to stay young forever? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn More:
TIME Talks to Google CEO Larry Page About Its New Venture to Extend Human Life (Time Magazine)
"Can Google, the technology giant best known for search and free email, tackle aging The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is planning to launch Calico, a new firm that will attempt to solve some of health care's most vexing problems."

A Contrarian in Biotech (BBC)
"Google is aiming to diagnose cancers, impending heart attacks or strokes and other diseases, at a much earlier stage than is currently possible. The company is working on technology that combines disease-detecting nanoparticles, which would enter a patient's bloodstream via a swallowed pill, with a wrist-worn sensor."

A Contrarian in Biotech (MIT Technology Review)
"Peter Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal, the investor who discovered Facebook, and the author of Zero to One, a short account of the counterintuitive thinking that's made him a godfather figure in Silicon Valley (see "The Contrarian's Guide to Changing the World.") But what's less well known about Thiel is his affinity for biotechnology."