HAPPY BIRTH­DAY?

200-year cel­e­bra­tions could hap­pen, three-cake day

Times of the Islands - - Health & Wellness -

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 de vices, 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 lar gest 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.

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