Well, this rates a great big “holy shit!” I’ve presented speculation on this topic before, but it’s looking like someone is actually trying it: Gene Therapy Makes BioViva CEO Elizabeth Parrish Younger, Blunter, and Resolute. Excerpt:
Elizabeth Parrish, Chief Executive Officer and guinea pig for Bioviva, announced today that she has become the first human “successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy.” Using two proprietary processes, Parrish claims to have reversed two decades worth of telomere shortening, the process that leads to the breakdown of cell replications in the vast majority of living things. Telomere scores — measured using white blood cells — indicate that Parrish, who was 44 years old in September, has slowed a cellular process many scientists believe to be one of the root causes of aging.
Parrish has become one of the leading lights of the biohacking movement by refusing to see aging as a fundamental fact of life. She described her highly experimental gene and cellular therapies as treatment targeted against an epidemic sometimes called the “silver tsunami.” She has made it very clear that, to her, “old” is a diagnosis. What she hasn’t always made clear — and seems to actively avoid addressing — are the moral, societal, and even medical ramifications of her work. Also the science.
Here, for my money (hah!) is the real kicker, if Parrish is right:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s going to happen very similar to computers or cell phones. At first the technology is very expensive, because it’s new. First it’s kind of like building a supercomputer, and then eventually everyone gets an iPhone. In your life when you look at that, you don’t ever remember living without an iPhone. Certainly you like an iPhone better than you would have liked it if you had to pay for the first supercomputer because your iPhone is much more predictable than the supercomputer was. But it’s that model, and we will get there as quickly as we can to drive down the costs so that everyone does have access to it.
It’s pretty much a standard rule that technology always gets cheaper. But this isn’t a personal computer or an iPhone; this is culturally-shattering, if it works. Imagine a world where you can retire comfortably at, say, 150, with a cool five million in the bank – and then live comfortably for another 150 years.
That’s going to change everything, from basic family structure to economics to politics to religion. But here’s one thing that suddenly becomes feasible: Interstellar space travel.
In his Cities in Flight series, written from 1950 to 1962, sci-fi author James Blish postulated that even faster-than-light travel would require long travel times, requiring extended lifespans; he solved that literary problem with a series of drugs called “anti-agathics,” or drugs that permanently arrested the aging process. Now that it’s possible – a long shot, perhaps, but possible – that a real anti-agathic therapy may exist, would that make a manned mission to the Alpha Centauri system, or perhaps to near neighbor Tau Ceti possible? Current astronauts may not be willing to spend the rest of a normal lifespan in a generation ship, but an astronaut with an expected lifespan measured in centuries may well be willing to do so.
That may be the biggest change of all if this tech actually works. It may just make if feasible, finally, for mankind to spread into the stars.