Posted on Dec 28, 2018, 12 a.m.
With all the breakthroughs, new drugs being developed, stem cells, senolytics, and the elixir of youth seeming to be appearing on the horizon, is there a need to draw the line, and if so when?
Senolytics may eliminate senescent cells effectively stalling the aging process and increase human health span; animal experiments have shown them to even restore more youthful characteristics.
New drugs may be able to extend healthspan and median lifespan of human without affecting maximum lifespan; meaning humans will retain age limit of about 115 years but will be able to reach that in better health with more people reaching the upper limits. Senolytics could be seen as a potential weapon to treat aging holistically as opposed to one disease at a time.
Should senolytics work more of the population will grow old in better shape; having cohorts of healthy elderly populations could take a huge financial burden off of the health system. Currently 85% of patients in acute medical attention care unit are over the age of 65. People living healthier for longer may mean people staying in the workforce longer, which could have economic benefits as well but that is objectionable on an individual level.
Going beyond family and finances the benefits of these drugs and advances are not so clear, questions can be raised about how much we should intervene with nature. Genetically altering babies or modifying the species beyond recognition or to have advantage over others sits uneasy with most people, as does unleashing nuclear weaponry. There are two sides to every advancement, technically three: for, against, and somewhere in between.
Yes we can tinker and do these things, but many feel inherently uncertain that we should saying that just because we have the ability to extend lives does not give is the right to do so and meddle with nature. What is so wrong with making people live healthier for longer, to live without disability, pain, and burden with the help of technology?
On an evolutionary scale nature doesn’t care, this is why the body has yet to develop a mechanism to discard senescent cells and by middle age the body considers it as if our jobs are complete and begins the process of dying to clear the planet for the next generations. If you take into consideration that many experts suggest the earth is already overpopulated, what will happen when people start living longer, especially since the current overpopulation has been cited as a key element to climate change and pollution, extending lives added to these factors brings about some good ethical questions.
Cancer is having some good breakthroughs, hearts can be replaced, new limbs crafted, eyes replaced, and many other ailments, conditions and diseases. So why can’t aging be looked upon as a debilitating disease? Slowing aging and easing the associated diseases with senolytics, stem cells, or another intervention should be seen as a wonderful achievement and celebrated for the fantastic thing that it is rather than a crime against nature.
The real question should be when do we stop? Increasing healthspan is indeed wonderful, but what about significantly extending lifespans or even preventing death completely? These things may be possible in the future and not be science fiction for much longer. The technology is very much within reach, advancements are being made continuously, progress may be slowed but it can’t be halted completely there are too many people working on it around the world.
At some point we have to decide whether harnessing such power is another step in evolution, albeit forced, or is it a dangerous deviation outside of what makes us human. Would it not be the equivalent of murder if technology is available to keep someone alive but denied, or if only reserved for the wealthy elite? The river of philosophical waters run deep under the bridges of technology that steadily advance regards of discussions.
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