Human trials are due to begin next year on a drug which could result in people being able to live healthily well into their 120s. The scientists who are developing it believe it may be possible to halt the ageing process, which would have huge ramifications in terms of certain age-related diseases and population numbers.
The diabetes drug metformin has been found to extend the life of animals, and the Food and Drug Administration in the US has now given the go-ahead for a trial to see if the same effects can be replicated in humans. The drug increases the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, which appears to boost robustness and longevity.
The theory is, that if it is successful, person in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as a 50-year-old.
Currently, the average life expectancy for women is 82.8 years and for men, 78.8 years. If the results seen in animals are reproduced in humans, lifespan could increase by nearly 50 per cent.
The question is – if the drug works, would you want to live to 120? A healthier aged population is an admirable goal, and if a drug can help prevent conditions such as Alzheimers and dementia, it would be enormously beneficial for individuals, families and the health system.
On the flip side, almost doubling the life expectancy would create other issues – namely financial. Surely the ‘working life expectancy’ would have to increase exponentially as well – what would retirement age be – 100? Will it affect public infrastructure? Do we have enough housing? Will the world be a more productive and prosperous place with a fit, healthy aged population?
This is a fascinating topic for debate. Please comment below. As concepts we once thought of as ‘science fiction’ becomes a real proposition, the population needs to debate the implications. If it worked, would you take a drug which allowed you to live healthily until 120?