What if Death Became a Thing of the Past?

birthday cake with a lot of burning candles“Aging is not a mystery, says famed researcher Dr. Aubrey de Grey, perhaps the world’s foremost advocate of the provocative view that medical technology will one day allow humans to control the aging process and live healthily into our hundreds—or even thousands.” – Kira Peikoff, leapsmag

If you could halt the aging process and live past 100, or even to 1,000, would you do so? Dr. Aubrey de Grey believes that the first person to live to 1,000 is alive today and might even be between the ages of 50 and 60!

Based on what he says, he may seem like a quack doctor to some. But with his credentials, numerous speaking engagements, and backing of prominent institutions and scientists, he may be worth listening to! He has also been interviewed in recent years on CBS 60 Minutes and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TED, Popular Science, and The Colbert Report, just to name a few places!

Dr. de Grey’s Research on Longevity

As a biomedical gerontologist who studied at the University of Cambridge, Dr. de Grey is the Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation (SRF), a non-profit charity dedicated to combating the aging process. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world’s only peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging. His research is centered on the damage that causes aging and the design of interventions to repair that damage. His name is frequently associated with the term, “immortality,” and he has become a prominent figure in aging research for the past 20 years.

Dr. de Grey’s view is becoming less radical these days than it once was. Both the academic and private sectors are putting more manpower and dollars into tackling aging. Dr. de Grey’s own SENS Research Foundation, for one, has branched out into five different companies. In addition, he has taken part in research at Yale University, Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Rice University, among others.

These are some of Dr. de Greys findings (without being too scientific):

Technology is the key to longevity: Dr. de Grey is known for his view that medical technology may enable human beings alive today not to die from age-related causes.
• Through his foundation, he hopes to “transform the way the world researches and treats age-related disease.” He believes that by putting further pressure on science and medicine to focus research on increasing limits of aging, rather than continuing along at its current pace, that “more lives will be saved in the future, even if the benefit is not immediately apparent.”
Getting old and frail is not a necessity. He believes that “repairing damage” to our systems through regenerative medicine could be enough to keep us going for a very long time, and in a very healthy state.

Many people balk at the implausible idea of indefinite longevity. We are in a society where we understand and accept that we will die someday. However, if de Grey’s research does pan out—whether it’s in the next 20 years, as he hopes may be possible; or in the next 40, which he thinks is likely; it would likely change the way we live. De Grey believes that one result would be that adult children will no longer have to care for their senior parents—which would allow them to be more productive in the workforce, for instance. He also believes that more people will have multiple careers, that there would be much more equality between ages, and that women would be able to postpone childbirth further—which would address of the concern that the population would explode as a result of death-defying research.

To learn more about Dr. de Grey’s views on longevity, please view his Ted talk here.

Critics are Challenged to Disprove Dr. deGrey’s Theories

Critics from the scientific community say that de Grey is chiefly an “enthusiast,” and not a real researcher, but they don’t necessarily discourage him from trying. For instance, one critic (Dr. Paul Boutin at USC) said, “(m)aybe we can’t all stay 29 forever, but his work is at least enabling researchers to try harder.”

In 2005, the MIT Technology Review and de Grey’s foundation announced a $20,000 prize for any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that Dr. de Grey’s research was “so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate.” Five submissions were made, of which three met the terms of the challenge. The team of impartial judges appointed by the university concluded that none of the challengers were able to successfully disprove deGrey’s theories, so maybe he is on to something? We’ll keep you updated as more information is released!

Extending Human Longevity with Regenerative Medicine

As described above, Dr. de Grey (and many other physicians) are focused on how we can extend human longevity with regenerative medicine. Stem cells can transform into specialized cells such as heart, neurons, liver, lung, skin and so on, and can also divide to produce more stem cells. Over the last decade, the number of publications per year on stem cell-related research has increased 40x, and the stem cell market is expected to increase to $297 billion by 2022.

Stem cells have been proven to work in several trials. For instance, in a Stanford study, seven of 18 stroke victims who agreed to stem cell treatments showed remarkable motor function improvements. This treatment could work for other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

Replacement and regenerative medicine also represent a massive opportunity when it comes to organ regeneration, and scientists are currently working to make this happen.
With regenerative medicine using stem cells, a dramatic extension of the human health span and life span (as de Grey describes) may be just over the horizon. The ability to regenerate, replenish, and replace entire organs and metabolic systems will hopefully be instrumental in helping us live longer, healthier lives.

What Could We Do Now to Maximize Our Longevity?

Hopefully, technology and science will pave the way for us to live longer. For now, the key to maximize your longevity is to eat healthy, exercise, and minimize stress. It is also a good idea to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Incapacity Planning, Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, and/or Retirement Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Elder Law Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Law Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Law Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.