People have been living longer as time goes by, thanks to improvements in nutrition, lifestyle, and healthcare technology. People lived on average into their mid-30s when the Caesars ruled the Roman Empire. As recently as 100 years ago, average lifespans were about 46 years. Currently, the average lifespan has been edging toward the 80s, with many people living into their 90s and even surpassing a century.
More researchers are extending their effort from extending lifespan to extending “healthspan,” which is to say the length of time folks live in relative health. The idea is that since decreased health tends to be related to aging, researchers are searching for ways to slow and even stop the aging process.
Approaches being studied range from genetic manipulation to increase healthy longevity, to using a protein called GDF11 to promote youth and health. The latter approach was discovered when researchers found that blood transfusions from young mice to older mice tended to promote health and vigor in the latter. Trying the same thing with humans is likely to be too controversial to practice, however researchers found that the young mouse blood had higher concentrations of GDF11, thought to be the factor that promotes youth and vigor.
Even just delaying the onset of aging is likely to save trillions of dollars that otherwise would be spent on treatments of chronic diseases. More importantly, such a development would increase the health and well being of all human beings as they, inevitably, become older. People will not only live longer, but will be happier and more productive as they do so.
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