200-year celebrations could happen, three-cake day
Someday you may need three cakes to celebrate your birthday. While living beyond 100 today gets a newspaper mention, future medical advances will mean fresh body parts, ageless bones and eye cameras and few diseases, so that we may live two or more centuries, researchers predict. And living like Noah may not be that far off. Science already replaces organs, knees and ligaments. Eyes, skin and other parts remain dicey at this point. Side issues will be decisions about Social Security/retirement eligibility, for instance, and it’s a sure bet younger workers won’t like their taxes supporting a retiree for 100 years. Ethics will be a factor as scientists pick the lock on aging. For now we must limit our vision to what science is already doing and what is predicted. DISEASE
Erasing biological health issues greatly improves longevity. For example, some 560,000 Americans each year die from cancers, 600,000 or so from heart disease, 230,000 from diabetes-related factors, tens of thousands of others from stroke, Alzheimer’s, influenza, obesity, pneumonia, lung disease and infections. The government reports that each year more than 2.6 million Americans die. REPLACEMENT PARTS
Ultimately the key to body replacement will be regeneration, parts harvesting or a hybrid mix of artificial devices, sensors, synthetics, liquids, inflatable pumps, cameras, implants—you name it. Even the craziest research isn’t saying that reverse aging or a stasis is likely; in other words there is no Fountain of Youth on the horizon. Skin is our largest organ. Today, synthetic or artificial skins for grafts are available, mostly for healing burns, disorders and cancers. We’d need regenerating skin to live longer, and to retain the normalcy of touch or feel, a warning device. Some artificial skins are here, but it’s only the outer layer, and in small patches, proving to be the greatest challenge. INTERNAL ORGANS
Composite bones of powders, metals and injectable protein are here, or are under clinical evaluation. The key, again, is regeneration and healthy blood flow. Substitute bones are being tested on sheep. Artificial hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys and other vital organs such as the pancreas are in use or under study, perhaps portable outside our bodies. Bio-engineered organs, essentially, are regenerative or genetically modified. Biohybrid organs combine artificial devices with living tissue, critical in cell and vascular health. The issue right now, scientists say, is blood destruction in an artificial device. Prosthetic eyes or restorative surgery is different than new. Some technology, however, would replace our eyes with cameras, sending signals to brain implants. Your old tongue will have implants to restore taste, or at least replicate the sense of taste. An artificial brain is likely to mean keeping yours healthy, free of disease, the electrical impulses strong. Artificial neurons/nerve cells would replace damaged cells, even providing more memory storage and quicker thought processing, as well, like adding chips to a computer. Ultimately price will determine your longevity, as will your life history. Will a heavy smoker, for example, not qualify for artificial lungs, or will a person of lesser means be left to perish naturally as his/her much wealthier neighbor lives on as a super-ager? Again, another decision for future ethicists.