Reaching for immortality


Ray The quest for immortality goes back to Adam and Eve, but now some smart people are getting serious about actually bringing it within their grasp. And they're getting more attention as well. Let's take Aubrey de Grey, for example: The British gerontologist has been beating the drum for anti-aging therapies for years. He plays a prominent role in a recently published book on the immortality quest titled “Long for this World,” a new documentary called “To Age or Not to Age” and a just-published commentary on the science of aging. In this week's issue of Science Translational Medicine, de Grey and nine other co-authors urge the United States and other nations to set up a Project Apollo-scale initiative to avert the coming “global aging crisis.” The experts' prescription includes a campaign to raise the general public's awareness about lifestyle changes that can lead to longer and healthier lives; a lab-based effort to develop anti-aging medicines; and a push for new techniques to repair, restore or replace the cellular and molecular damage done by age.

“There is this misunderstanding that aging is something that just happens to you, like the weather, and cannot be influenced,” another co-author, Jan Vijg of Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in a news release. “The big surprise of the last decades is that, in many different animals, we can increase healthy life span in various ways.” When it comes to translating anti-aging research into real life, however, the experts face at least three types of challenges: First, the basic lifestyle advice is pretty pedestrian: Eat wisely and exercise moderately. Some folks might wonder what the big deal is all about. “To enjoy the fantastic voyage, stay with the tried and true,” Jonathan Weiner writes in “Long for this World.”

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