Lust for life: breaking the 120-year barrier in human ageing

Lust for life: breaking the 120-year barrier in human ageing

In rich countries, more than 80% of the population today will survive past the age of 70. About 150 years ago, only 20% did. In all this while, though, only one person lived beyond the age of 120. This has led experts to believe that there may be a limit to how long humans can live.

Animals display an astounding variety of maximum lifespan ranging from mayflies and gastrotrichs, which live for 2 to 3 days, to giant tortoises and bowhead whales, which can live to 200 years. The record for the longest living animal belongs to the quahog clam, which can live for more than 400 years.

If you want to live longer, do nothing

If you want to live longer, do nothing

I want to live longer and help others do the same. I assumed the most effective way to do that is by understanding the science of ageing and then engineering solutions to extend human lifespan. That is why I became a biomedical researcher and over the past several years I have pursued this goal almost single-mindedly.

When a 2004 study showed that reducing the calorie intake in mice extended their life by 42%, I enthusiastically embraced the results and even put myself on a calorie restricted diet. But, subsequently, a 2012 study showed that long-term calorie restriction may not have the promised benefits. On the contrary, fewer calories without the required nutrients might actually cause harm.