If you tell someone you would like to live forever you could be called a dreamer, a narcissist, the devil’s spawn or even just plain nuts! Approximately two hundred people took the chance of being pegged for one of these when they attended the Alcor Extreme Life Extension Conference last year. These people are determined to achieve immortality if it kills them.
Numerous speakers led discussions of ongoing research in various fields devoted to life extension from nanotechnology, cloning to artificial intelligence – even cryonics [freezing the body in liquid nitrogen until science can give it renewed life]. Though not the ideal form of immortality, cryonics is more of a plan B in case all the hype is just that.
Alcor is at the tip of the iceberg as far as cryonics is concerned. Participants pay them four hundred dollars per year and named them their beneficiary of life insurance in order to pay for the cost of having their head frozen for fifty thousand dollars or the whole body for a mere one hundred twenty thousand dollars. The extra seventy thousand bucks seems like a small price to pay for the added mobility if this freezing idea actually works.
Leading experts in the field of immortality believe these following techniques could someday bring us immortality.
Cloning – The CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, Michael West, is famous for stating his company actually cloned human embryos was one of the standouts at the conference. West appears to be accepted quite readily by the medical “community” and he seems to have similar visions as Alcor and company. He firmly believes that cloning techniques will be able to substitute worn out human organs and aging cellular matter with healthy and vital new replacements.
If they could just get the stem cell procedures to work, they would make some progress.
Stem Cells – These embryonic cells have the capacity to replace any cell in the body and show quite a bit of promise for medical treatments for disease eradication. Not unlike transplanted tissue, they risk being rejected by the recipient as an invasive foreign matter by the immune works of the body. In order to fix this problem, scientists are working to produce cloned embryos from the recipient’s own body tissue. It is unknown if this will fix the problem, but Michael West and company continue working toward the solution.
Diet – Some researchers spoke of important changes to diet as a means to extend life expectancy, specifically caloric restriction. Ideally living on thirty percent less food while enhancing nutritional supplementation. Westerners have never been much at dieting – or at least sticking with one – so researchers are trying to come up with a pill, which is more the western way than any constitutional devotion.
Steven Spindler is a biochemistry professor at UofC, Riverside and a CSO of a major pharmaceutical company, he explained one method that would produce a medication that tricks the body, making it believe it is ingesting many less calories regardless of what a person has actually consumed. When a body eats fewer calories, it acts as if it is younger than it really is.
Spindler began his studies because of research that indicated many inhabitants of Okinawa in the 70s who were malnourished actually lived to be one hundred years of age or more. When researched further the century old Okinawa residents proved to also have far lower rates of illnesses and disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and cancer varieties. They even wrote a “How To” book about these Okinawan people and the study. While we wait for the pill, it seems only eating less calories will bring about similar results.
Nanotechnology – There has been a noticeable lack of breakthroughs in the field of nanotechnology but the people involved in the research are busting at the seams with anticipation and excitement. One of the scientists involved in research, Robert Freitas, is a research fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing. He discusses a couple nanotech bits he thinks will one day thwart mortality.
Respirocytes are artificial red blood cells, actually nano machines, that will one day act as first responders for medics who could simply inject them into a recipient in need who has perhaps suffered smoke inhalation. Only five cc’s of respirocytes, claims Freitas, and a person could run the five minute mile – or at twelve miles per hour for twelve minutes – without needing a single breath. [And the International Olympic Committee thinks it has a doping problem now!]
Microbivores are artificial white blood cells and they would actually eat pathogens, digest these and pass them away as waste. A microbivore would do the job of a white blood cell one thousand times quicker, consuming the disease agent in roughly thirty seconds and then ousting it after an hour or so. This process generally takes weeks to occur innately in our bodies now.
One major hurdle right now is these microscopic nanobots would need to pass through the blood – brain barrier in order to do their job. This is a tough obstacle that Freitas has yet to take on, but plans to soon. He was passionate in stating how he feels about mortality stating, “Death is an outrage! – Let’s do something about it.”
As for stem cell collection, some have referred to it as murder, which stuns West, who says he can barely step on an ant. He claims to be a sucker for life and understands his labors are only baby steps toward immortality. He believes that life is innately immortal and that it does not have to fail, but of course, it does.
Nutrition – Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil plans to extend his life by following a strict diet and exercise regimen as well as ingesting one hundred and fifty supplements per day! Kurzweil is not a trained physician but his knowledge of science and technology is notable. He has pioneered optical character recognition, music synthesis and speech recognition.
Kurzweil was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes nearly twenty years ago and he developed his own method of treatment, he got rid of sugar and many carbohydrates from what was his normal meal plan. Kurzweil has a book coming out about his longevity health plan in combination with Doctor Terry Grossman. They are coming up with a food product line, which they believe will taste as good as regular varieties of carbo treats, but remain low in the big three – carbs, sugar and salt.
Kurzweil has a simple objective; to remain alive long enough to see progress in nanotechnology and therapeutic cloning goals advance human life expectancy into triple numbers. He states that if we can survive only ten more years, we could possibly experience or see for ourselves what remarkable developments await us in the future.