Give it another 15 years and you may be able to live till 100
Improved medicines and advanced therapies that involve treatment at the cellular and molecular level are increasingly able to stave off the now-inevitable fraying and deterioration of the body and help people live till advanced ages, a panel of experts said on Saturday.
“We have to intervene at the basic level of cells and molecules to reverse the process of ageing; it’s akin to fixing the wear and tear of a car,” said Dr Aubrey De Grey, chief science officer at the SENS Research Foundation.
He was speaking on the second day of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on a session -- How to live up to 100 – alongside Professor Prabhat Jha, University of Toronto Chair in Global Health and Epidemiology.
Dr Grey -- whose area of research is regenerative medicine to prevent the ageing process -- told the audience many things go wrong within a body by the time it reaches 80.
“I call it side-effects of being alive that our metabolic system generates by creating products that our body doesn’t know how to rid of so as to not cause inside damage in the long run that eventually leads to ageing,” says Dr Grey.
Dr Grey said it was possible to live a lot longer than current life spans but people would have to wait till the development of medicines and therapies that were mostly in the early stages of development.
“It is not only about living long but living a healthy long life that is the focus of all our current researches,” he said.
Dr Jha agreed, saying dying young was absolutely avoidable.
“Especially in a country like India, where data shows 8% of children die before they reach age 10, it is all the more pertinent to devise ways of improving the health system and to avoid preventable reasons that cause damage to the human body like smoking, eating unhealthy diet, lack of exercise etc,” he said.
Dr Jha has directed a variety of large scale public health studies, most notably the ‘Indian Million Death Study’ on premature mortality across the country.
“Bringing down blood pressure by 20mmHg, for example, can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke by 40%. Smoking causes 7 lakh deaths in people of middle age in India and one can gain at least 9 years of life by quitting smoking in the middle age,” Dr Jha said.
While Dr Grey emphasised on the role of gene therapy in leading long and healthy life in future, Dr Jha felt genes played a small role in comparison to environmental changes that eventually helped lead a healthy life – such as living in a less-polluted environment.
However, both panelists agreed there was a 50-50 chance of reaching a point in a few years where people were living long and healthy lives.
“India is an amazing laboratory to learn to avoid risk factors for premature mortality,” said Dr Jha.