Forever young: the longevity researchers waging a war on ageing

“Maybe we’ll say 120 is the new 80”


Imagine a world where a person’s retirement party follows their hundredth birthday and life spans extend into brag-worthy cricket scores.

Many eye diseases, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, are related to advanced years and are likely to become an increasing issue as the population ages.

But what if the risk of chronic disease did not go hand-in-hand with how many candles someone has on their birthday cake?

A select but passionate group of researchers around the world are working in the field of rejuvenation biotechnology – a paradigm shift in medical research that aims to put ageing rather than disease at its heart.

Describing the concept at the Giant Health Event (21–22 November, London), London Futurists chair Dr David Wood highlighted that advancements in rejuvenation biotechnology could see people working until they are 100.

“Maybe we’ll say that 120 is the new 80,” he said.

The fourth industrial revolution, including the potential of artificial intelligence technology, could tackle ageing in a way that was previously inconceivable, Dr Wood said.

“As we live, our bodies lose their youthful vitality…We can deal with this bad biology in a way that has never happened before,” he shared.

Researchers aim to defy the fact that as humans age, their risk of death becomes higher.

Dr Wood shared that not every animal has a greater risk of death as it ages, pointing to the naked mole rat as an example of an animal with noteworthy longevity.

“They don’t become more likely to die the older they get,” he said.

The Abolition of Ageing author recounted the story of a bowhead whale that was found with a fragment of harpoon embedded in its flesh that had not been manufactured for more than 120 years.
He said that there were also some humans who seemed to have a natural advantage in the ageing department, with a group of four siblings living past 100 despite one sibling refusing to eat vegetables and several smoking.

“There are certain combinations of genes that seem to make people less prone to the effects of ageing,” he said.

Dr Wood believes that it is conceivable that affordable and reliable rejuvenation therapies could be available as early as 2040.

This depends on the level of priority and investment that rejuvenation biotechnology is given, he emphasised.

“It’s by no means certain. It depends on whether we want to do it,” Dr Wood added.

Dr Wood conceded that there were cultural differences in the appetite for longevity.

While your average Briton may turn their nose up at the idea of living well into their second century, Dr Wood highlighted that it was a popular concept in Eastern Europe.

“There is a great deal of interest in this in Russia,” he added.