During the last decade age researchers have made one breakthrough after another and many now see some of the current generation of babies reaching 150 years old.
Eradication of some diseases and new understanding of such traditional killers as heart disease, cancer and diabetes has led many scientists to predict greater longevity. They also point to the promise of gene therapy including stem cell research. Genetic breakthroughs, accelerated by the human genome mapping project, are making remarkable headway towards understanding the mechanisms that cause aging and how to greatly slow the breakdown of cellular replication of the DNA helix. The eventual errors in replication and shortening of the DNA strand seems to be some of the core reasons that precipitate aging.
Researchers on the cutting edge of longevity science see some children alive today reaching the year 2150. One, Steven Austad, of the University Of Texas Health Science Center sees evolution itself as moving the human race towards longer lifespans due to a safer environment.
"So even in the absence of medical advances, with just evolutionary change, in the foreseeable future one would expect humans to age at a slower and slower and slower rate," Austad told the BBC.
100, 150, 500…1,000 years?
A few age researchers believe humans will far surpass the 150 year mark. Dr. Aubrey De Grey, an innovative thinker in the erontology field and Chief Science Officer of the SENS Foundation, has authored scientific papers and several books outlining his ideas on aging, the process, and how to forestall or combat it. His "The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging" is considered landmark among age researchers and a stepping-stone towards the achievement of greatly expanded life times.
Theorist De Grey almost scoffs at those who see humans reaching 150, even 200 year lifespans in some far away future. He firmly believes that greatly elongated lifespans are achievable now and that in the not-too-distant future a mid-life crises may occur sometime around the 500th to 600th year.
De Grey, the Editor-in-Chief of Rejuvenation Research, sees lifespans reaching the 1,000 year mark. He argues that humans basically age seven different ways an all of them can be avoided or stopped. Aging is a disease, he asserts, that can be cured.
During 2011, De Grey told the Daily Mail, "I'd say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I'd call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so. And what I mean by decisive is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today."
Who wants to be a decrepit old codger or hag dragging themselves around at 212? Is that what's in store for humans?
Not at all, says De Grey. His approach is to better health and a side-effect of that will be longer, more youthful lives…lives greatly enhanced and extended.
"This is absolutely not a matter of keeping people alive in a bad state of health. This is about preventing people from getting sick as a result of old age. The particular therapies that we are working on will only deliver long life as a side effect of delivering better health," he explained.
He addresses some of his ideas in a video presentation.
Regenerative medicine also expected to extend lifespans
Today, the longest most humans can realistically expect to live is between 70 to 80 years depending on environmental conditions, personal diet, the inherited genetic traits, and ability to avoid lethal infectious diseases. A very few make it into their 90s and fewer still pass the century mark.
But leading experts like James Vaupel, believe that babies born today have as much as a 40 percent probability of reaching 150 years. The reason, he says, is because of diseased or aging organs. The organs fail and death follows.
Over the past few decades, intense research has focused on organs an the ability to replace or rejuvenate them. Genetic therapy, stem cell therapy and new drugs are paving the way for stunning advances towards eliminating organ failures.
The primary body parts that have a high likelihood of failure leading to incapacitation or death include the pancreas, brain, liver, kidneys, eyes, heart, lungs, and nervous system.
Tens of thousands of researchers around the world have reached the stage where organ rejuvenation is within their grasp. Many studies have shown rejuvenation is possible. Some research has demonstrated rejuvenation of heart muscles, the liver—even the brain—with new gene-therapy drugs or applications of adult stem-cells.
By 2020 stem-cell research is expected to advance exponentially and as it does the limit to human lifespans will increase as well.
Could it really be possible that some of us will be around to toast the New Year…of 2150? Yes, say many of the researchers.
Keep the champagne on ice.