How close are we to finding a cure for aging?
Aging is a natural and necessary aspect of life, and outright refusal of this truth stems from misunderstandings (or perhaps more accurately, delusions) regarding evolution and modern medicine.
Evolution, from the start, has never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever counted on humans (or almost any other living creature, for that matter) living for extended periods of time beyond reproduction. We were all bred to pass on our genes as much as possible, do what we can to ensure survival of our progeny, and then die. This underlying theme has stood since the first single-celled organism.
Not very satisfying, is it? Well, tough. Fact: nature doesn't care if you think you should live longer. Animals that outlive humans do so because it has been evolutionarily advantageous for them to do so (e.g. solitary creatures that live in the ocean, which is kind of huge and therefore a fair amount of time may be required to traverse it and find a suitable mate).
Anyone (and I sincerely mean **anyone**) who has done appreciable study of the human body realizes that in the last hundred years or so we have barely cracked the surface. In the grand scheme of things, we still know damn near next to nothing, and our "cutting edge" therapies reflect it.
Don't get me wrong: we can now manage a myriad of symptoms, and we have developed amazing life-saving surgeries, but rarely do we ever truly "cure" something by addressing its cause/source... because we can't; we are mainly limited to supporting the human body's natural processes.
Of course, at this point you ask: if medicine is so limited, why has the average life span increased so much? Simple: we've managed to address or alleviate some of the bigger problems that used to kill us by the thousands.
Let's put things into perspective:
- Hygiene wasn't really respected until the late 19th century
- We didn't discover the treatment properties of insulin until 1922
- Penicillin, the first major mass-produced antibiotic, wasn't discovered until 1928, and has since spawned numerous generations of descendants that are used every day in hospitals worldwide
- Water fluoridation in the U.S. didn't occur until 1951
- Percutaneous Coronary Angioplasty, a major treatment option for heart disease, was first done in 1977
- Driver and passenger airbags were first offered as standard in 1987
- TPA, an incredible treatment for acute ischemic stroke, was approved by the FDA in 1996
- Let us not forget the amazing advancements in anesthesia that have allowed long/invasive surgeries to occuк
- Cancer treatments have made remarkable milestones (see Ian York's answers on cancer for some excellent figures: http://www.quora.com/Ian-York/answers/Cancer)
- Preterm infants now stay in advanced NICUs where they are essentially "grown" to maturity in controlled conditions that mimic the uterus as closely as possible
Remember that the average lifespan statistic is just that: an average. If you lower the number of people who die at younger ages from preventable or treatable causes, then of course average lifespan goes up. And therein lies the key to answering this question: never, in the history of humankind, have we ever increased a person's innate potential lifespan; we have only ever removed external obstructions to achieving this innate potential. That is not just semantics, that is a PARAMOUNT reflection of ideology to consider. Many gerontologists believe that the increase in lifespan through modern medicine and research reflects an increase in this innate lifespan potential; this belief is erroneous.
Look back at the minuscule list of accomplishments above; considering that we as a species reached behavioral modernity ~50,000 years ago...doesn't seem so rapid now, does it? Our increase in lifespan primarily reflects the fact that medicine's public health and research arms have been picking off some seriously low-hanging fruit. You can, in fact, see this trend occurring around the world:
You'll notice that countries can suddenly bump (example: China), but by and large, they all go to the same slope thanks to the spread of the same advancements, and there is little reason to believe that this slope will not reach an asymptote around 90 or so; when you consider the sheer magnitude of the scientific advancements in the last hundred years and realize that in the last 50 years the life expectancy in the U.S. has only gone up by ~7 years, that's not particularly impressive.
All this means just one thing: we will likely never find a "cure" for aging. If we do, it will be many, many generations after you and I are dead. Accept that, and live your life to the fullest. "Anti-aging" (a stupid term) people like to claim that "pro-aging" (an even stupider term) is based on illogical sentiment, but the view that aging is normal is based on a very realistic understanding of the world.
This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.
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