How to Live Forever
August 10, 2005 10:12 AM   Subscribe

How To Live Forever: More research suggests that there is no such thing as aging, and reminds me of that quote from the Barbarian Brothers, "there is no such thing as overtraining, there is only undereating and undersleeping." As opposed to Timothy 8. Also, I LOVE the HNRCA database. Get yer mutli people, get it!
posted by ewkpates (45 comments total)
posted by prostyle at 10:37 AM on August 10, 2005

I'm aiming to live to be at least 100 - so the HNRCA database is a great find. Thanks ewkpates!
posted by selfmedicating at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2005

A friend of mine is doing his Masters on "the social representations of life extension technology held by transhumanists and immortalists."

He just attended the TransVision 2005 conference in Venesuela.

I'll pass this on, though he's looking more at the Alex Chiu side of things, afaik.
posted by ODiV at 11:04 AM on August 10, 2005

Who wants to live forever?
posted by SisterHavana at 11:11 AM on August 10, 2005

Bah, we just need to learn how to regenerate Telomeres!
I'll choose living as a technologically dependent zombie dying as quickly as I can be regenerated over actual death any day!

In all seriousness, my great uncle lifts weights and runs three miles a day in his 70s. I plan to keep my exercise schedule and decent eating habits and be just like that dude.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:15 AM on August 10, 2005

It's you "live forever" types that will force the hand of Operation Logan's Run!!
posted by basicchannel at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2005

basicchannel, I'm fine with that as long as I get to be a Sandman and have my own dial-a-whore teleporter in my private chambers. Who wants to live past thirty? Isn't that right about when you have to start wearing adult diapers, anyways?
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:21 AM on August 10, 2005

I have it on good authority from high up anonymous government sources that the secret to everlasting life was discovered as part of their research on MREs but was mothballed due to pressure from Alan Greenspan who determined that it would put too much pressure on Social Security if people stopped dying. Greenspan has the only remaining batch of HLNDR1 and plans to begin the treatments shortly after his retirement; when he is no longer in the public eye. It's common knowledge on the hill...
posted by zeoslap at 11:21 AM on August 10, 2005

Can't I just grow a clone and transfer my brain into its body when I'm old and infirm? Oh, please, can't I?
posted by brain_drain at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2005

Interesting that just a few weeks ago a study was released apparently indicating that exercise can't halt the effects of age, though it can improve quality of life in later years. As a 52-year-old who's already experienced a certain amount of deterioration, as much as I'd love to believe that I can just do away with aging via the sweat-lift-eat right regimen, I guess I'll settle for just slowing the decline.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:29 AM on August 10, 2005

There are a lot of things you can do to slow aging, though, particularly regarding what you eat.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2005

Made the mistake of catching Madonna in her movie "The Next Best Thing" last night and, true enough, exercise can't halt the effects of age - even with a dozen 1940s style filtered lights...
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:53 AM on August 10, 2005

So, I think the take away message here is that if you're old and weak, you have no one to blame but yourself.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:00 PM on August 10, 2005

4easypayments; Well, before I read the article, I thought that the take away message was going to be that you can become immortal, since ewkpates typed "more research suggests that there is no such thing as aging." I was already formulatingf a highly sarcastic response to such crackpottery. Of course, the article is actually just suggesting ways to stall the effects of aging. Everyone gets old and weak eventually, but you can try to stay healthy as long as possible. Your perogative.

If you're a huge fatass who has the ability (physical ability, time, money) to exercise but doesn't (like so many well off Americans), you do have yourself to blame. Similarly, if you're elderly and do not take care of your body but could, don't pass the blame. Of course, many elderly people can't take care of themselves for various reasons. I think that's what you were getting at, but I'm not sure.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:26 PM on August 10, 2005

*loquacious sits up suddenly, once again physically startled that he's made it past 30. He lights another cigarette and settles back down into his state-approved stupor*
posted by loquacious at 12:43 PM on August 10, 2005

If you're a huge fatass who has the ability (physical ability, time, money) to exercise but doesn't (like so many well off Americans), you do have yourself to blame.

well, no shit. but seriously, i have myself to blame for my health? i'm clearly responsible for it, but why should i assume any shame in the fact that i probably won't be lifting weights or running three miles a day, well into my seventies? this obsession with prolonging one's life as much as possible is absurd.
posted by jimmy at 12:49 PM on August 10, 2005

Kat, may I call you Kat?, this is exactly the kind of conclusion I hate.

My point with this post is that "aging" is a phenomena that is the result of malnutrition and loss of muscle mass (and I would argue, the effects of persistent dehydration, sleep deprivation, and over exposure to carcinogens) and not a thing in itself.

People don't "get old". They "get weak" and "get sickly" and we call this gradual process "aging" because we are sloppy.

Exercise alone will not halt the effects of age. But exercise, in conjunction with, I don't know, steroids or HGH, has been shown to reverse the effects of aging in specific ways over specific periods of time (albeit with certain side effects.)

My point, again, is that there is no "aging".
posted by ewkpates at 12:59 PM on August 10, 2005

As mentioned above, telomere shortening is probably the principle mechanism for the human limit on aging. But the same mechanism helps keep some cancerous cells from dividing out of control, so engineering out telomere shortening would have widespread and unpredictable consequences on the development of disease.

I read somewhere that if all natural causes of death were eliminated (free radical damage, telomere shortening, collagen cross linking, etc) people would have a median lifespan of about 1200 years given the prevalence of war and violence and accidents and suicide. You'd have to expect that the suicide rate would go up..

It's interesting to speculate on how culture would change if people lived so long. We'd have to keep ourselves interested for much longer...
posted by mert at 1:05 PM on August 10, 2005

jimmy; It isn't an obsession with living as long as possible, it's an interest in living the same quality of life for as long as possible. I really, really like exercising, and want to continue until I die or become invalid. The point isn't to prolong life, but to continue enjoying it for as long as possible. I didn't make that clear.

If you complain about your health but could improve it, then it's your... Ok, never mind. I'm a real bastard about this kind of thing, and I admit it. My friends often call me a fatist.

WAIT A MINUTE!!! I just read ewkpates comment while I was typing this. Man, telomeres (and everything else in mert's comment)!!! Your body is going to wind down even if you're taking optimal care of it. Telomeres aren't going to stop shortening just because you take steroids or inject yourself with HGH. Such methods are a cosmetic fix at best. You claim aging doesn't exist immediately after discussing drugs (iffy ones at that) that "reverse the effects of aging in specific ways over specific periods of time." There is obviously such a thing as aging, a biological process by which the body slowly deteriorates regardless of the owner's efforts to keep it in the best shape possible. People can and do look for ways to mask, halt, or even reverse the aging process, and in doing so acknowledge the existence of the process (as if they could ignore it!). It is conceivable that telomere therapy or something similar might eventually halt the effects of biological aging, but as mert points out, age will still be an important factor because you will still eventually die somehow. Instead of telomeres, you worry about the increasing probability that something or somebody will get you because you've beaten the odds for so long. Probability replaces biology. Would you live in complete isolation and boredom (complete safety) just to continue breathing?

ewkpates, your point is bunk, especially since we haven't advanced far enough to halt biological aging. Pump yourself full of HGH and steroids, you might look better but your internal organs will still fail in a few years or decades.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 1:54 PM on August 10, 2005

My point, again, is that there is no "aging".

I'm just curious how you would explain children with progeria. Are their parents secretly giving them substandard diets and exposing them to massive doses of carcinogens?
posted by beth at 2:25 PM on August 10, 2005

Derive etc,
Amen - and "bunk" was a politer word than I would have used. Especially as it's not even a halfway accurate precise of the linked article. I was even dimly wondering whether ewpakes was either having us on - or was trying out some sort of potentially popular babyboomer snakeoil book title "There is no aging!!!"
I have actually edited an extremely well peer reviewed book on the subject ("Ageless Quest" by MIT prof Lenny Guarente,) about the search for genes implicated in aging and yes, unsurprisingly he too acknowleges the process as a given - not a point for debate.
(Madonna still looks a fright in The Next Best Thing, though!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:38 PM on August 10, 2005

On some level, isn't saying there's no aging a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? OK, it's not, technically. But everything ages, changes, degrades over time. How on earth could people be different? Get real.
posted by freebird at 3:41 PM on August 10, 2005

- Will I live to be a hundred, doc?
- Well, it really depends. Do you smoke or drink?
- No, I've never done either.
- Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or fool around with women?
- No, I've never done any of those things either.
- Well, then, what do you want to live to be a hundred for?
posted by lenny70 at 4:02 PM on August 10, 2005

I must suppose that ewkpates' claim of "no aging" is more a dis of the term "aging" then the actual process it is meant to decribe.

How about "body weakening after extended time"?

Asian have known how to live longer for ages. Cut your calories in half and stop ejaculating. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 4:20 PM on August 10, 2005

Holy crap, we're arguing semantics now?!? Abort, abort, abort!!!

(Personally, mrgrimm, I think ewkpates meant "no aging" in the literal sense. Dig up his posts on psychology that inevitably tie in Scientology.)
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 4:45 PM on August 10, 2005

"Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."--Susan Ertz
posted by MrBadExample at 5:25 PM on August 10, 2005

My point, again, is that there is no "aging".

Well crap, there goes my thesis project. And somebody should probably inform these guys!
posted by purplemonkie at 6:01 PM on August 10, 2005

Asians have known how to live longer for ages. Cut your calories in half and stop ejaculating.

I'm in trouble.

Seriously, restricting calories while maintaining nutrition wildly increases the longevity of lab animals, so there is a good chance it would also work on humans. But to get maximum benefit, you need to start following the diet by age 25 or so.

I'm in trouble.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:54 AM on August 11, 2005

People, people! Don't hate me, LOVE the science! Telomeres shortening probably isn't an issue, and we've known it for awhile. (Make sure you read the foot notes, you science loving devils.)

Derive and Jody almost made me cry, until I realized that they just don't care about science. Then I cried, I did, but I wept for them and all their lost nerd potential.
posted by ewkpates at 8:00 AM on August 11, 2005

Oh man, this is rich. Ewkpates, did you even read your own articles?

From the "known" link:

Most cells have a finite lifespan; after a certain number of divisions specific to the cell type, they enter a state of cell senescence no longer dividing their ability to synthesize DNA blocked. This built-in limit on cell division may help explain the aging process. Several genes have been identified that regulate senescence, some of which trigger cell proliferation and others that counter cell division. Research into what causes cells to mature, to lose the capacity to reproduce, and eventually to die promises to provide valuable insights about the genesis of disease.

Telomeres have been regarded as the cell's "molecular clock." These protective segments of DNA on the ends of chromosomes shorten each time most types of cells divide until, at a critical length, cell division ceases. Major advances recently have been made in understanding the role of telomeres. The enzyme telomerase compensates for telomere shortening by adding DNA segments to the ends of chromosomes, enabling cells such as sperm to divide indefinitely. How telomerase activity in cells contributes to cancerous growth is not known, but many scientists view telomerase inhibition as a potential new approach to cancer therapy.

From the "awhile" link:

The process of cell division is called mitosis. Each time mitosis occurs, the telomeres of the dividing cells get just a bit shorter. Once a cell's telomeres have reached a critically short length, that cell can no longer divide. Its structure and function begins to fail. Some cells even die. In the laboratory, most human cells can only divide 30 to 50 times before they stop reproducing, reaching a stage called senescence.


One group of researchers recently looked at the cells of people with progeria, the disease that ages young children so rapidly that they die with many of the symptoms of old age in their teens. Their cells have exceptionally short telomeres, suggesting that rapid shortening of telomeres contributes to the pathology of their disease, and providing more support for the hypothesis that such shortening explains much of cellular aging.

The "Telomeres" link deals with specific cells in worms, not the entire worm, and... guess what... the worms still died eventually. No immortal worms crawling around.

So, yeah... It looks like Telomeres are important, along with other genetic factors. Cells in your vital organs are going to wind down eventually barring some futuristic therapy. Start crying. Gawdamnit, you didn't even read the articles you were posting? They refute your own argument. Shitcock.

You know what goes along really well with nerd potential? Common sense and a critical mind. I write code to analyze electron-positron collisions recorded with the CLEO detector, you can't get much nerdier. I also don't gullibly buy into ridiculous shit, and I RTFA before I post it or comment on it.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2005

Oh, and to make things a little clearer, from the abstract in the PLOS paper:

Despite the close correlation of telomere length and clonal cellular senescence in mammalian cells, nematodes with long telomeres were neither long lived, nor did worm populations with comparably short telomeres exhibit a shorter life span.

The paper acknowledges immediately that the results of the nematode study are not applicable to mammals. I uh, don't really feel like a worm. I'm pretty sure I'm a mammal. This BetterHumans website used that paper without really understanding it. This is why you need to be skeptical of anything on the internet that isn't actually a peer reviewed scientific paper, and even then you need to be critical.

You should, ahhh, go play with your e-meter or something, ewkpates.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:30 AM on August 11, 2005

Seriously, restricting calories while maintaining nutrition wildly increases the longevity of lab animals, so there is a good chance it would also work on humans. But to get maximum benefit, you need to start following the diet by age 25 or so.

Back when I was looking into CR, consensus even among serious devotees of the regimen seemed to be that adopting it as an adult would likely only extend one's lifespan by five years at best. Maybe it's not worth worrying about too much, Enron?
posted by Chris Freiberg at 10:46 AM on August 11, 2005

Ah Derive! You exceed my expectations! Rather than cut and paste from what I hope you read carefully, please note:

1. It is not clear what role telomeres play in the life span of organisms. There are problems with the hypothesis that telomere length = life span.

2. It is not the case that telomeres only get shorter, or that they get shorter at any particular speed.

Perhaps you are the Napoleon Dynamite kind of nerd, but don't realize it? Writing code is definitely on par with basic science research, though, your right. Your contributions to the community of the critically minded are sure to be recognized. Any minute now.

I will acknowledge that it's clear that "living forever" isn't right around the corner. I just hope I live long enough to become the kinder, gentler person that so many others have.
posted by ewkpates at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2005

My point, again, is that there is no "aging".
posted by ewkpates at 12:59 PM PST on August 10 [!]

When you're quite ready lay off the baffling sarcasm ewkpates, may we expect some coherent explanation of your 12.59 comment - or not?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:32 AM on August 11, 2005

Right. Aging. There is a common notion that people get old and that this "oldness" is the cause of the symptoms of aging.

There is increasing evidence that suggests that the symptoms of aging are mostly the result of certain risk behaviors, like not lifting weights.

I'm suggesting a shift in perspective: Getting old is like getting fat. Dying is not necessarily avoidable - but dying "old" is.
posted by ewkpates at 11:46 AM on August 11, 2005

I think I said "coherent"?
Not a slippery Cosmo mag feature article-style coy justification for a ludicrous cover story headline splashed in big neon capital letters...
As for "dying is not necessarily avoidable..."?
How is it ever avoidable? Or is that just a "shift in perspective" too?
This would all be too silly for words. Except that on some demented level you appear to be serious. I think.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:56 AM on August 11, 2005

Ewkpates, again, read your articles. Telomeres in some types of cells like sperm and blood cells will regenerate, but cells like those that comprise your vital organs are not going to regrow telomeres. Eventually, these cells will not be able to reproduce, and vital pieces of your body will fail.

I'm going to try and summarize the findings of that paper for you concisely and simply, because you don't get it. The paper studied a kind of nematode having a life cycle and physiologydrastically different from a human. As the article on the paper points out:

The roundworms are ideal for the study because they spend most of their adult life without having a single dividing cell, yet they still show signs of old age.

This raises questions such as whether telomeres in non-dividing cells erode slowly over time.

Humans are replacing cells all the time, and this is why telomeres play such an important role in our aging. The people who conducted this study found something in worms that has no bearing on humans. As has already been stated, although humans have some types of cells that can reproduce indefinitely, we have many others that cannot. I already pasted this once from the paper, but here we go again:

Despite the close correlation of telomere length and clonal cellular senescence in mammalian cells...

Humans are mammals, and our telomeres are closely linked to cellular senescence. The researchers publishing the paper found an organism where all the cells are regenerative and other genetic factors than telomeres are responsible for aging, but this organism is not like us.

By the way, copying text and then discussing it is good form, it shows you have read the article and are using what you have learned to argue a point. This is very similar to citing an earlier paper in one you are currently writing.

Your two statements about telomeres are disengenious, because we are discussing humans (the entire organism), and in humans, many cells will not regenerate telomeres, making telomeres an important factor in aging. Worms may someday be of interest in telomere therapy, but you're taking facts about specific kinds of cells and purposefully misconstruing them to the wrong organism and its entire body.

My, uh, "contributions to the critically minded" (*snicker*) are being rewarded; I keep getting departmental scholarships and good grades in my research section. I'll have plenty of good recomendation options when I apply for grad school, and I'm doing the kind of research that requires thought and initiative. But it was my fault to flaunt personal achievments online anyways, that's the kind of dick measuring contest that no one can win because anyone can claim any size they want.

If you are acknowledging that living forever is not currently possible, then you are going back on your previous statements, as Jody is pointing out. Getting old is not like getting fat. When certain vital organs like the liver or heart start failing big time, they will drag every other system down with them. Articular joint cartilage does not regenerate and will wear down as you age. You cannot possibly expect to run around looking and feeling 20 until you're over 100, and then suddenly drop dead. There will be signs, and you will die "old" unless you die prematurely. You're arging ridiculous and easily attacked semantics at this point. You said earlier that "telomere shortening is probably not an issue," and that was quite simply wrong while we are discussing humans. Telomere shortening is a well documented part of the human aging process.

Did I forget to mention that you're definitely wrong about telomeres and human aging?
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:23 PM on August 11, 2005

I think we need to take of and nuke ewkpates from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:24 PM on August 11, 2005

Stress has been proven to shorten life span Derive, I'm glad I'm doing my part.

My premise, and Tufts, is that getting old is like getting fat.

I'm not arguing that anyone will live forever. I'm sorry our sense of humor isn't the same. I am saying that Tufts, among others, is raising questions about what "getting old" means, and equating it more to getting fat than to "wearing out".

I'm glad you are drawing the line on measuring. I will point out that I am funnier than you. And better looking.
posted by ewkpates at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2005

Ewkpates, here's the problem; someone will refute something you put forward (easily), and you will either ignore evidence or try switching to something new. People are not automatically going to assume you were joking when they do not have the subtle clues of actual speech to interpret you, and I don't think you were joking originally. You're saying you were joking now, after having to back down from several arguments. Not really buying it. Go back and read your comments, there is no reason to assume you were joking.

Sorry man, you aren't stressing me out. I've got an entire day to kill before I can move back into my hall, so I've been amusing myself with this in between packing and going to the gym. Well, I smell BBQ. Good luck with immortality. Maybe with a steady diet of nematodes...

Dude, I can't wait until you FPP again.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 2:22 PM on August 11, 2005

In the course of editing MIT Prof Lenny Guarente's 2003 book "Ageless Quest" - check Amazon, if you're so inclined -I became pretty familiar with - ooh, how shall I put this? - certain concepts not unrelated to this FPP: i.e. calorie restriction and lifespan, molecular survival mechanisms, the old "Hayflick limit" - stuff like that.
Like Derive, I'm not into dick measuring either - I only grumpily offer the bit about book editing as a take-it-or-leave-it aside to hint at some knowledge of the subject.
And - equally grumpily - I will say that ewkpates has made a total pig's ear of this post.
Still - humor, eh?
You tell us getting old is akin to getting fat, ewkpates?.

Funny one!
(Though I guess my life has seemed longer trying to figure out what on earth the point of this has been..)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:49 PM on August 11, 2005

Thanks for totally ignoring Tufts by the way! While I'm not suggesting that the entire scientific community is of one mind, the fat=old age paradigm is not mine, thanks for offering.

We have telomeres, which may or may not get shorter, and get shorter for a variety of reasons. We also have a set of symptoms: Loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density, dementia, slower reflexes, loss of physical endurance... etc. Tufts, among others, studies these symptoms and decides that much of their impact is not due to "age" but to sloth and poor diet.

I post this under a witty, but now, admittedly, poorly conceived title, and sombodies gets theirs in a bunch. Tufts is saying that loss of muscle mass, one symptom of aging, is mostly not due to age, but to sloth. I just happen to agree with them.

Fat=Age (1)
Maybe it's telomeres (0)

If it's not a critical thinking issue, which I'm not convinced of, maybe it's a reading comprehension problem.
posted by ewkpates at 8:50 AM on August 12, 2005

"More research suggests that there is no such thing as aging."
"My point, again, is that there is no "aging"."
"People don't "get old". They "get weak" and "get sickly" and we call this gradual process "aging" because we are sloppy."
"I'm suggesting a shift in perspective: Getting old is like getting fat."
"My premise, and Tufts, is that getting old is like getting fat."

All the statements above are by ewkpates. They are all substantially incorrect UNLESS we get into murkily condescending waters and agree that by "people" we mean very, very stupid folk who have never once made a causal comparison between spry, skinny, active 70-year-old Uncle Joe and sofa-welded, lardy, diabetes-suffering, muscle-atrophied 70-year-old Aunty Babs.
Actually, I had no problem with your self-described "witty" post title (How To Live Forever) because it falls well within the limits of pleasant hyperbole. It was when you falsely reworked it as "there is no aging" I got riled.
Plus it's all the reductionist crap you kept piling on - along with the fake chummy "gee, just get over yourselves!!" tone adopted in your responses.
I also can't see where you've got to grips with telomeres at all.

Metafilter is stuffed full of posters and commentators who come out swinging on a subject - then may be forced to retreat or restate (often with charm and panache). Not on this occasion...
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2005

Perhaps you could ask Tufts University to restate the results of their scientific research. I'm not sure their answer would be full of charm or panache, but it certainly would entertain.

I hate doing this, it embarrasses me, but I'll quote from the main link of this post:

"At the conference, Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, Senior Scientist, Antioxidants Lab at HNRCA, reported on the widespread incidence of malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies in the elderly. He also presented evidence that the nutritional requirements of the elderly were well above the official recommended daily allowances for each vitamin and mineral.

Dr. Blumberg also reported on the work of two of his colleagues, Dr. William Evans, Chief of the Human Physiology Lab at the HNRCA, and Dr. Irvin Rosenberg, Director of the HNRCA, and their team of scientists. Based on their research findings, Evans and Rosenberg have devised an exercise and diet program that apparently prolongs vitality by retarding or even reversing the usual biological deterioration process that begins past age 45."
posted by ewkpates at 6:25 AM on August 15, 2005

May the gods grant me patience, here we go again...So from THAT - specifically "Based on their research findings, Evans and Rosenberg have devised an exercise and diet program that apparently prolongs vitality by retarding or even reversing the usual biological deterioration process that begins past age 45 " - you go on to extrapolate such dumb, reductionist comments as "there is no such thing as aging"???
Someone once said something like "you cannot take two leaps to clear a chasm" and this pretty much describes the problem you have created for yourself, ewkpates.
Simply put, your chasm is your definition of aging that pretends it is some sort of false construct - as you put it "not a thing in itself". Unfortunately, cell death IS a thing in and of itself - for crying out loud, what do you think the researchers are studying in the first place?
Managing the symptoms of the process - a process you fat-headedly says doesn't exist - doesn't wave a vanishing wand over the process. The biological age of a patient is crucial data in all science studies.
Frankly, I think the Tufts researchers would prefer not to have "useful idiots" like you arguing their interesting findings. The toe curling embarrassment at your interpretations is all theirs.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:24 AM on August 15, 2005

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