The average human lifespan has increased dramatically over the last 100 years. This has been achieved largely, thanks to the fruits of our advancements in technology, science, and medicine - but could we ever achieve immortality?
Using things like vaccinations, we have been able to exterminate life-threatening diseases like smallpox. But pathogens, predators, and accidents aside, could we ever modify the way we live or our very bodies to become immortal?
In order to do this, we will need to overcome some of the major issues that cause us to age, and eventually die. Science has identified four key processes that cause us to age:-
- Chronological aging
If these can be reduced, stopped or eliminated, we may just be able to live forever.
Here are 11 potential technologies and theories that could help us achieve the 'Holy Grail' of eternal life. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. Regenerative Blood Transfusions Could Extend Human Life Spans
Although the concept sounds a little ghastly, dare we say vampiric, it could be used to extend the human lifespan by 10-20 years, perhaps more. Scientists have observed that a protein called GDF11 is very common in the blood of young mice but itis scarce in older mice.
This protein has been shown to increase skeletal muscle and increase heart strength. If it can be replicated and combined with our growing knowledge of synthesizing blood, regenerative blood transfusions could become commonplace in the not so distant future.
2. Longevity Pill's Could Extend Our Lifespans by 15%
A pill that triggers the anti-aging enzyme Sirtuin 1 could, it is estimated to extend the human lifespan by as much as 15%. One example has been developed by a startup pharmaceutical company called Elysium whose Basis (NAD+ Supplement) is thought to slow down the aging process.
It is the culmination of 25 years of research and has begun human trials - so you might see in a chemist's near you soon.
3. Nanotechnology Could Fight Cancer and Repair Cells
Self-replicating nanobots could perform vital life to extend functions in the future. They could be used in a variety of complementary ways from directing attacking cancer cells to performing repairs to our bodies at the cellular level.
4. Identification and Introduction of Longevity Genes Could Increase Average Lifespans Above 100 Years
Scientists have been trying to identify "longevity genes" by studying 152 Spaniards and 742 Japanese Centenarians. This recent study did identify several gene variations these groups share.
This is also supported by other work using gene therapy on yeast involving the protein ISW2. This showed that lifespans could be extended by 25% using this sort of technique.
5. Gene Therapy Could Extend Could Make Us Immortal
Studies have shown that if gene therapy can induce cells to express telomerase it can slow down the biological clock. Experiments in 2012 were actually successful on mice and extended their lifespan by as much as a 1/4.
This research is widely recognized as a "proof of principle" for the principle of life extension using gene therapy techniques.
6. Metamaterial Bionics Could Make Us Superhuman
Metamaterials are artificial materials that have been engineered to have properties not normally seen in nature. These could be used to create artificial organs and augment existing organs (like our eyes) to make you stronger and live longer.
Researchers are already exploring using them to replace defective human cochleas.
7. Robotic Avatars Could Make Us Cybernetically Immortal
Scientists believe that we may be able to save and upload copies of ourselves in the future. - so-called "cybernetic immortality". These could then be installed into robotic bodies or avatars that would, in theory, enable us to live forever.
This process could be repeated ad infinitum as robotic avatars break down, have accidents or become obsolete. Robotic avatars like these are already being researched by organizations like the 2045 Initiative.
8. Molecular Manipulation Could Add 4 Centuries To Our Lives
Some researchers were able to extend the lifespan of some worms by manipulating the molecules that affect insulin and other nutrient signals. If the results could be replicated in humans, it might be possible to extend the human lifespan up to 500 years.
Scientists like Dr. Pankaj Kapahi are currently exploring this field in detail with some very interesting results.
9. Suspended Animation Could Help Us Live Forever
Suspended animation has been a common feature of science fiction for many years, but it could be a viable way to extend human life in the future. Doctors have been able to freeze and revive patients over a period of a few hours - a process called “induced hypothermia".
This process slows down the body's metabolism to such a level that it can put the body 'on pause'. It can, of course, also kill if the timing is off. Such a technique, once perfected and extended, could be used to induce a kind of human 'hibernation' that could last, in theory, forever.
10. 3D Printing Organs Could Extend Our Lives
3D printing is developing incredibly fast and could soon be used to routinely print replacement body parts, like the human heart. Advancements have been made very recently by a UK team successfully printing replacement corneas is helping push this technique forward.
If this technique could be extended to using fat and collagen to print new hearts, this could add decades to donors lives.
11. Cloning Organs Could Help You Live Forever
And finally in our list of theories and technologies that could extend our lives is an alternative to printing organs - cloning. Cloning is not a new technology but it could be used to grow new parts of your own body.
Scientists have already been able to grow body parts like ears, bone, and skin and once perfected for more complex organs it will be used indefinitely to extend someone's life.