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The surprising truth about human lifespan: How many years can we actually live?

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Warren Henry
Warren Henry is a tech geek and video game enthusiast whose engaging and immersive narratives explore the intersection of technology and gaming.

The world’s richest people such as Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos have invested huge sums in biotech companies seeking to prolong life through cell regeneration and disease prevention.

To date, the longest time anyone has clung to their lives is 122 years. But this may be at the lower limit of potential.

Human life can reach 150 years

Even if you lived in a bubble free of disease or danger, your body would still wear out by pumping blood, digesting food, and performing all the functions necessary to survive.

And the older you get, the longer it takes for your body to “recover” from this wear and tear, because aging takes its toll on our cells and DNA. All of this means that your tissues gradually lose their ability to repair themselves, which can lead to disease and dysfunction.

Here, one study found that the human body’s recovery time doubles every 15 years, so a bruise that heals in a week at age 40 may take two weeks at age 55. bodies fail, they die.

And researchers don’t necessarily agree on a maximum time for this. Some suggested 115 years, others suggested 130 years.

One of the most recent studies, involving more than half a million people in the United States and the United Kingdom, found that people lose flexibility somewhere between the ages of 120 and 150.

The big question is: what if we could slow down this wear or, better yet, prevent it altogether? Some experts argue that with the development of medicine, human life expectancy has no natural limits.

Let’s take a look at aging at the cellular level, what’s stopping us from living longer, and the teams of researchers looking to understand and possibly reverse the aging process.

Cellular senescence is one of the most studied topics of aging.

Cellular senescence occurs when a cell stops reproducing but does not die.

When this happens, some of the aging cells turn into destructive zombies that fly around and release inflammatory chemicals that damage healthy cells, including stem cells, the body’s “repairers” that help replace damaged tissues. But not all aging cells are bad.

Some aging cells release chemicals that help heal wounds, says Paul Robbins, associate director of the Institute for the Biology of Aging and Metabolism and the Aging Biology Medical Research Group at the University of Minnesota.

Companies like Life Biosciences and Unity Biotechnology are currently developing drugs called senolytics to curb and kill only the “bad” aging cells in your body. Some experimental drugs may even prevent cell aging.

But so far, no one has figured out how to prevent or completely eliminate harmful aging cells.

By the age of 60, it becomes increasingly difficult for the human body, especially the immune system, to get rid of harmful aging cells, which can lead to their buildup leading to tissue damage and failure, Robbins says. One of the main causes of cellular aging is damage to your DNA, which helped launch another area of ​​research that led to the Nobel Prize in 2009: telomeres.

Telomeres help determine your biological age

Some argue that biological age—how old your cells and tissues are—is a better predictor of lifespan than your chronological age or the number of years you have lived.

The usual way scientists estimate biological age is by measuring telomeres in certain immune cells. Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of your DNA. They are made up of chains of molecules called base pairs. As you age, these base pairs disappear, causing your telomeres to shorten. Shorter telomeres also make DNA more susceptible to damage and the effects of aging.

At birth, telomeres in some immune cells called white blood cells can be between 7,000 and 11,600 base pairs long. And a recent study showed that as soon as this size decreases to 5000 bp, you face an imminent risk of death.

But another study showed that in some people over 100, telomeres get longer each year, not shorter. This has prompted some scientists to look for ways to mimic the process of telomere repair in young people.

For example, Clinics Aviv conducted a study that looked at the response of 35 elderly people to hyperbaric oxygen therapy when they rested in a room with high air pressure and oxygen levels. They were able to increase telomere length in participants’ white blood cells after 30 daily HBO sessions.

But most telomeres stopped growing after the 30th session, and scientists don’t yet know how long the effects of the treatment might last.

DNA methylation is associated with a number of age-related diseases

Another contributing factor to DNA damage and cellular aging is DNA methylation, where molecules called methyl groups attach to specific regions of your genes to control their behavior.

Depending on the site, methyl groups can prevent gene activation or increase gene activity when needed.

As a rule, DNA methylation decreases with age, which can lead to the activation of defective genes.

Research has linked reduced methylation to a number of age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, although it’s worth noting that not all methylation changes are bad.

Like telomeres, DNA methylation is another way scientists can measure your biological age to help predict life expectancy. For example, you might be celebrating your 55th birthday, but after years of smoking, your cells may have levels of methylation commonly seen in people over 60, resulting in a shortened lifespan.

Traditionally, DNA methylation tests have used blood, but recently companies like Elysium Health and research projects like GrimAge have also developed saliva tests.

Studies have shown that people who are methylated at least five years more than their chronological age have a 16% higher risk of dying, meaning they are more likely to die from any cause than their peers of the same age.

Mitochondria and free radicals are one of the biggest obstacles to longevity

Last but not least, one of the biggest determinants of human lifespan is the tiny bean-shaped mitochondria in your cells. These microscopic structures generate most of the cellular energy that is vital to survival, but they also create by-products called free radicals, which are essentially unstable atoms that jump around and damage parts of your cell, resulting in damage called oxidative damage. stress. Over time, oxidative stress builds up, causing age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Biotech companies like Altos Labs are working to prevent these diseases by regenerating cells and repairing the damage that oxidative stress can cause. The company hopes that returning cells to a healthier, younger state could lead to longer lifespans.

The pursuit of longevity has no single solution

There are groups of people working to understand and possibly reverse these processes. But it’s important to note that the mystery of aging has no single solution.

“All these things that get worse with age are related,” Robbins said.

For example, telomere shortening can lead to DNA damage, which in turn destroys mitochondria. Free radicals from the mitochondria, in turn, can damage more telomeres and DNA. All these processes mutually influence each other.

There is no aging mechanism more important than other elements. This is why all anti-aging research, no matter how specialized, is an extension of humanity’s larger goal: to stay alive as long as possible.

Source: Science Alert

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