A renowned aging expert believes humans could live for 1,000 years – and potentially as long as 20,000 years – with a few genetic alterations.
Recently, the alleged world’s oldest man, Jose Paulino Gomes, died at the age of 127.
The oldest living person now is María Branyas Morera, who is 116 years old.
Those ages, however, are just a drop in the bucket according to João Pedro de Magalhães, a professor of molecular biogerontology at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham in England.
“I want to cheat death,” he recently told Scientific American.
He hopes to do this by studying the genomes of animals such as the bowhead whale, which can live for 200 years, and the naked mole rat.
“Various long-lived animals, such as humans, whales and elephants, all have to cope with the same issues, such as cancer, but they use different molecular tricks to achieve their longevity,” said the professor.
“With bowhead whales, they seem to have much better DNA repair. My dream experiment is to take a bowhead whale gene and implant it in a mouse to see if the mouse would then live longer.
“Another obvious example would be the p53 gene, which is very strongly associated with cancer suppression. Elephants have multiple copies of this gene, which makes them resistant to cancer.
“There are a few other candidate genes that we’ve discovered, not only in whales but in rodents such as the naked mole rat.”
He continued, “Naked mole rats are fascinating because they can live up to 30 years, yet they are smaller than a rat, which only lives to about four years. So you have a small rodent that’s related to mice and rats but lives much longer and is very cancer-resistant.”
The secret, he believes, is their ability to respond to and repair DNA damage.
“My hypothesis is that we have a very complicated set of computerlike programs in our DNA that turn us into an adult human being,” he said. “But maybe some of these same programs, as they continue into later life, become detrimental.”
He also claims that “if we could ‘cure’ human aging, average human life span would be more than 1,000 years. Maximum life span, barring accidents and violent death, could be as long as 20,000 years.”
The professor doesn’t know when these types of advancements in the slowing of aging will occur, but says that if and when it happens, “the health benefits [will] be mind-boggling.”