We can expect to see people live to 120 and beyond within our lifetime, a geneticist has told Insight.
Harvard University’s Professor David Sinclair is working on a ‘cure for ageing’ and believes modern medicine can significantly extend the human lifespan.
“I think there will be a world where people can look forward to living at least beyond 100, and it will be not uncommon where people can live to 120,” he says.
“Every time we say that there’s a natural limit, we develop technology to push us further.”
Simple organisms, even yeast cells and fruit flies, have ‘longevity genes’ that can be switched on by low calorie diets and exercise, says Professor Sinclair. When these genes are ‘switched on’, they can protect the organism and help them live longer.
“We have many of these genes in our bodies and we’re just starting to learn that they do help us live longer and healthier,” he says.
“If we could have a simple pill that our doctor would prescribe to take with breakfast, that could help our lifestyle.”
He is confident science will know how to switch on these genes within the next 20 to 30 years. Professor Sinclair also tells Insight there are drugs already in clinical trials and, so far, they seem to be safe and showing early signs of success.
“Instead of just lowering your cholesterol this pill would prevent Alzheimer’s disease, lung diseases, bowel diseases, dementia, a whole list of diseases… That’s what we’re able to do in mice so far. The question is: can we do that in people, and how soon?”
Many health practitioners would argue exercise and a healthy diet is far more effective at prolonging the human lifespan. But Professor Sinclair believes taking a pill is a more convenient way to maintain health.
“No matter how much we say that it’s good for you to be thin and to exercise, it doesn’t seem to help for most people,” he says. “If we could have a simple pill that our doctor would prescribe to take with breakfast, that could help our lifestyle.
“I’m not saying we should just sit on the couch and get fat and take a pill, that’s not the point. But we can supplement what our bodies naturally are doing to help keep us young.”
When asked if these pills had any side effects, he admits that “we’re just learning as we go”, but says there are no negative side effects yet.
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