Every day science brings humanity closer to an old dream: immortality. The path to immortality is thorny and difficult, but the ultimate goal justifies any means (although this can be argued). It is very likely that those born in this century will no longer have to die. Looking at the achievements of biologists, neuroscientists, engineers and pharmacists in the context of prolonging life, one wants only one thing: to delay the critical moment as far as possible in order to overcome the threshold of endless renewal. Yes, a person is "suddenly mortal," as one of the main characters of the classic of literature has said, but examples of people living up to a hundred and more give hope that an old woman with a scythe can be deceived. The good news is that if you stand on the road to fighting the inevitable end, you do not have to lose anything. Death is the ultimate end to any struggle, so the fight against death seems self-evident.
Man is a complex set of dynamic factors, consisting of billions of cells, bone and muscle tissue, heart and kidneys, neurons and memories. Recreating a person other than the natural way seems impossible in the foreseeable future. However, with the development of computer technology and the emergence of artificial intelligence, it becomes obvious that we could simulate many of the tools of nature, if not repeat it. A person can be a complex set of individual parameters, the sum of all parts, but on closer examination all these parts obey the usual and universal laws. Does this mean that we will be able to deceive death if we study these laws well? Let's see.
Cultivation of organs
The physical health of a person is based on many factors, which, as a rule, reduce to the absence of infectious, viral, hereditary and acquired diseases and the integrity of the organism.
On the existence of bacteria, people could only guess the beginning of the last century. Think about it: microbiology as a separate science did not exist yet some hundred and fifty years ago, when your great-great-grandmother was alive. It is enough to look at modern medicine in order to understand what a huge leap in improving the quality of life for people gave the appearance of microscopes and microbiology as such. Now we can treat infectious diseases, and very successfully. And despite the worsening of the problem in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we are sure that we will find a way to cope with the diseases.
But what about the organs? A broken arm can not be cured with pills, and a heart that needs a transplant can not be saved by a stab. Even worse is the case with the bodies lost as a result of amputation or tragic events. You can not just take and transplant your leg, hoping that the body will restore all the nerve connections and learn how to manipulate a new limb. Queues for transplantation of internal organs grow every year. What if you, on your way to immortality, suddenly lose a pair of legs or hands? Life will lose its former meaning.
Fortunately, active work is being done in this direction. Scientists offer a solution in the form of organs grown on another carrier. Pluripotent stem cells, which are present in humans in the infant state, have an amazing power: they can differentiate into any type of tissue, except for the extra-embryonic (placenta and yolk sac). Taking adult cells, turning them into pluripotent and multiplying, scientists could get an unlimited amount of raw materials for creating and recreating a person's native organ. It remains only to find stem cells, but more on this below, and create a "farm" for cultivation.
In 2016, Canadian biophysicist Andrew Pelling and his team from the University of Ottawa successfully cultivated human tissues using … apples. Using the method of decellularization, they removed the cells of the apple and stayed with the cellular "forests", practically drying the apple, saving it from "meat". Then a piece of an ear was cut from an apple and filled with human cells. So the auricle appeared. Pelling argues that his method will quickly and cheaply create scarce implants to restore human organs.
Stem cells are undetected cells that can transform into other cells – the heart, neurons, liver, lungs, skin. They can share and grow. In childhood or youth of a person, these stem cells act as built-in repairers. They heal and restore the normal functions of damaged organs.
As stem cells grow older, stem cells are reduced by 100 or even 10 000 times, in different tissues and organs. In addition, they experience genetic mutations that reduce their quality and effectiveness in repairing the body. Agree, it would be great to stop the degeneration of stem cells and maintain their reserves for unlimited time.
At the beginning of the article, we started talking about the fact that "those born in this century will not have to die." You see, at the moment of birth, the human body is in a state of biological perfection, says doctor Bob Hariri. The organs have not yet been exposed to a heap of harmful stimuli like electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, the biological code is not spoiled. At the time of birth, it would be possible to take the stem cells from the baby with the original DNA that has not yet been spoiled, multiply in large numbers for the future and freeze. Take a note for your child that when the cans of stem cells appear (and they already appear), one could provide it with an endless regeneration for many years. It will be some twenty years, and stem cells will change medicine, which means that the life of a person forever.
Cancellation of old age
Speaking of immortality, interested people talk about a physiologically healthy and quality eternal life. Nobody wants to spend eternity in the body of a frail old man – tired people are often asked to turn them off from the life support device or give euthanasia. A person deserves eternal life in a young and full body. The antipode of youth is old age, that's who our main enemy is.
Like a car, a person's body begins to grow old with time, problems grow – the cells grow old, the body's defenses are exhausted, harmful waste accumulates, muscles weaken, and so on. The only difference is that the human body is much more enduring than a car and much more efficient.
Sensitive cells – aging cells that can no longer be divided by creating new cells – can be removed. Experiments on mice injected with Foxo4-DRI showed that mice live longer by 30%. Scientists are targeting aging cells, because they see in them the root of all senile troubles, from fragility of the body and weakened immunity to the appearance of age-related diseases. At the moment, tools for influencing aging cells and rejuvenating the body are actively being developed. For example, a compound based on resveratrol, which is contained in small amounts in red wine and berries, was able to rejuvenate cells, restoring RNA splicing, which renews the senescent cells. Cell aging also manifests itself in the shortening of telomeres-DNA at the ends of chromosomes. Some RNA splicing factors, which decrease with age, can restore telomeres, and together with the restoration of telomeres, the aging of the cell also stops. Is it worth it then to drink red wine in large quantities? No, of course: there is very little resveratrol in it. But since an effective mix already shows its results (though on animals), and possible connections of a thousand, it promises us a truly healthy immortality. Can someone doubt that in 20-30-40 or even 50 years, scientists will not find an effective cure for old age? Well, fifty years ago people did not fly into space.
Now one thing is clear: different drugs are tested on laboratory mumps, and before clinical trials in humans it is still far away, but the number of ways to save is growing year by year, and interdisciplinary cooperation demonstrates striking effect. And we have not yet departed from biology.
A strict diet
Recently, more and more validated data have been received that the extreme diet and starvation, as well as a lifelong restriction of calories consumed by 30%, can be an amazing remedy for old age. The idea that the organism lives longer, when it starves more and eats less, goes to the roots in the distant past. But in fact, the rejection of 25-50% of daily calories consumed causes anger and denial in people. Why do you need eternal life if you can not enjoy your favorite meatballs with pjureshka and hamburgers?
However, a group of scientists led by gerontologist Walter Longo from the University of Southern California came to the conclusion that you can come to the effects of rejuvenation without subscribing to a lifelong hunger strike. "Diet simulating fasting" for five days a month for three months, repeated as necessary, will be "safe, appropriate and effective to reduce risk factors for aging and the appearance of age-related diseases." It turns out that periodic abstinence from food promises an optimal increase in healthy years of life.
It is important to understand that these conclusions are preliminary and not 100% proven. Like the possibility of immortality as such. But we have already come to the conclusion that in the fight against death, any methods can be good. And the aspirant to immortality will now use all possible ways to reach the critical moment beyond which he will not have to die any more.
Theories about the saving diet are based on the idea that the regenerative effects of the body are caused not so much by the restriction of calories as by the subsequent restoration. In contrast, a long-term and continuous restriction can lead to negative consequences such as anorexia. Periodic fasting – five days a month – reduces body weight, improves glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol, along with other factors that persisted for three months even after returning to a full-fledged diet, studies have shown.
45-year-old American Elizabeth Parrish, in pursuit of youth, voluntarily decided to test the method of rejuvenation developed by her own research company BioViva with the help of gene therapy. She has undergone two courses of gene therapy since September 2015. One course was designed to prevent loss of muscle mass, and the second – to increase the level of production of telomerase. Telomerase is an enzyme that adds repeating sequences to the end of the DNA chain in telomere regions that we have already talked about.
Obviously, Elizabeth would not have applied therapy that had not previously been tested in animals. She risked her own health for rejuvenation, risking therapy without the permission of the state regulator.
According to Elizabeth, she not only managed to stop telomere shortening (measured in 2015 and 2016), but also to become younger by 20 years.
In parallel, the FDA approved the use of gene therapy for patients aged 3 to 25 years with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As reported by the journal ScienceTranslationalMedicine, thanks to gene therapy, a group of doctors managed to cure a 58-year-old patient from an incurable form of lymphoblastic leukemia in just 8 days. Although it is too early to talk about any scientific breakthroughs, gene therapy can become a routine procedure for traditional medicine.
However, the lack of proven results and the approval of state agencies does not stop clandestine groups of gene engineers from experimenting with themselves. In the struggle, all means are good.
The method of editing genes based on CRISPR has for several years not gone from the main pages of medical publications. An easy-to-use tool that "cuts and pasts" genes promises a whole bunch of incredible breakthroughs in all areas: cancer treatment, HIV treatment, fighting poverty, treating hereditary diseases, treating neurodegenerative diseases, improving human qualities, creating designer babies … list giant.
Most recently, doctors from Oakland, USA, for the first time tested the technique of editing the genome on a living person. It took such a risky step to go because the patient suffered from an incurable genetic disease, Hunter's syndrome. It is too early to speak about the results, but the scientists are sure of the future success. Another important thing is that the experimental method is tested on seriously ill people, and therefore development is underway.
It will not come as a surprise to me if in 5-10 years the field of medicine is overwhelmed by a whole stream of genome editing tools and their applications. People vying to rush to create designer babies, removing them unwanted genes, hereditary diseases, changing the color of eyes and hair. Anyone wants his child to be born healthy and happy. There is a high chance that the designer babies born in this century will be deprived of many negative factors manifested in old age, which means that their life will be long and healthy.
And more importantly, reaching the stage of 120 and more years of healthy life will mean the opportunity to touch to new life extension tools. The process of renewal of the body and its recovery will become avalanche-like, and it may not be necessary to die any more. It is only necessary to overcome the barrier.
It's no secret that the human body is imperfect. It is a masterpiece as a creation of nature, amazing by its complexity and versatility. But the more complex the system, the more opportunities it has for failure. From this point of view, our technical adaptations are much simpler than natural creations.
It's no secret that the human body is weak and frail, frail and devoid of many amazing adaptations, such as wings. When a person wanted to fly, he created the plane. When a person wants to become taller, stronger, faster, he will create a cyborg.
With the development of science and technology, people were asked the question: why burden yourself with a meat bag, restore an organic limb when you can try to create a bionic, much more adapted, multifunctional and, in principle, no worse than the original. Already, bionic prostheses are being produced for children and adults who can control the power of thought.
For example, LUKEArm is a high-tech prosthesis that allows its owner to feel. A special motor provides feedback, simulating the resistance that various physical objects exert – the user can feel that the cushion has less resistance than the brick. Now the device is quite expensive – $ 100,000 – but prices are falling and will continue to fall.
The mind-controlled leg was first used by Zack Vauter in 2012, a software engineer from Seattle who was amputated above his knee. Special prostheses allow athletes to run for short and long distances, and there is an opinion that they receive an advantage over this compared with conventional runners.
As prosthetics develops, prostheses are becoming more technologically and technologically advanced. The combination of technology and organic allows you to create hands that can touch and grasp, but will be stronger than their organic counterparts. What would you choose: an ordinary hand or a normal-looking arm with increased strength?
Different systems constantly operate in the human body, but we do not notice it. The intestinal microflora helps to process food. The heart pumps blood, the lungs supply it with oxygen. Immune systems are struggling with adverse incursions. The cells divide and age, the hair grows, the brain consolidates the information in a dream … And as we said, even though the human body is a highly complex and durable organism, over time, its abilities to recover come to naught and even start to work to harm.
But that if we, using the capabilities of science and technology, let in ourselves another system, large and inconspicuous, which would update the body, support it in a working condition, protect it from invading harmful microbes and update it? That is, in fact, would help all the functions of the body to perform their tasks and even more.
Currently, nanorobots are developed primarily for targeted cancer treatment. Tiny, specially designed bodies inserted into the desired area could release the medicine, killing cancer cells and leaving the unharmed healthy. Сами нанороботы настолько малы, что даже «шеренга» из 50 тысяч экземпляров в толщину будет едва ли больше человеческого волоса.
Также ученые пытаются уменьшить лучшие механизмы современных технологий, чтобы снабдить нанороботов ими: здесь и мельчайшие двигатели, и 3D-принтеры из ДНК, и наноплавники, и наноракеты, и даже беспроводные технологии. Однажды в вашем теле будет работать целая армия из миллионов крошечных помощников. Именно они, незаметно слившись с вашим телом, сделают его бессмертным.
Когда в компьютере сгорает видеокарта, ломается блок питания или накрывается материнская плата, в конечном итоге можно просто вынуть накопитель с памятью и поставить на другую машину. С недавних пор важные данные стали хранить в облаке. Но что делать человеку, если он не машина (пока)? Можно ли спасти человеческое «я», когда умирает тело, перенести разум и душу в другое тело, вместе с сознанием, воспоминаниями и знаниями? Вопрос «взлома» человеческого мозга вполне может стать самым большим и важным в этом и других столетиях. Потому что он напрямую связан с бессмертием — цифровым, если угодно.
Представьте, что вместо долгих лет жизни в одном теле человек мог бы реинкарнировать в другом теле. Сейчас область исследований мозга находится в крайне сложном положении, потому что пытаться его взломать, по мнению этиков, просто кощунственно, а открытые испытания с возможным летальным исходом никто никогда не одобрит.
Впрочем, некоторые считают это неизбежным. Илон Маск в начале года заявил о создании компании Neuralink, которая будет работать в направлении слияния мозга человека с искусственным интеллектом и многократного его усиления. Сам Маск видит в этом пути неизбежную необходимость на фоне растущего информационного общества. Другой предприниматель, Брайан Джонсон, создал компанию Kernel, которая подбирает «шифр» к сигналам человеческого мозга, чтобы можно было манипулировать нейронами, бороться с нейродегенеративными заболеваниями и восстанавливать воспоминания.
Однажды «сохранение» человеческой личности в облаке вполне может стать возможным. Вопрос лишь в том, когда и как до этого дожить.
Когда все средства уже перепробованы, а смерть неизбежна, можно пойти на крайние меры. Состояние глубокого анабиоза и в науке, и в фантастике часто рассматривалось как средство отдаления неизбежного. В чем смысл? Медицина постоянно развивается, и уже завтра могут появиться методы лечения неизлечимых болезней, которых не было раньше. Но если завтра человек уже не проснется, вряд ли ему можно будет помочь. Если же погрузить тело в состояние глубокого криосна, заморозить его до лучших времен, можно дать надежду на то, что люди будущего найдут лекарство и «воскресят» спящего.
Холод — один из лучших способов сохранить органические ткани. Некоторые организмы, от микробов до лягушек, могут просыпаться и дальше заниматься своими делами после длительного пребывания в чрезвычайно холодной среде. Эта идея показалась достаточно убедительной создателям Alcor Life Extension Foundation, которая предлагает криогенные услуги. За 770 долларов в год вы сможете подписать договор, по которому ваше тело будет покоиться в гробу с жидким азотом (если вы, конечно, сможете заплатить еще 80 000 долларов за сохранение мозга или 200 000 долларов за все тело после смерти).
Сразу после того, как сердце пациента останавливается, его перевозят в ледяную кровать, а кровообращение и дыхание искусственно возобновляются с помощью аппарата. Затем пациент получает коктейль лекарств внутривенно, включая антикоагулянты и буферы pH. После этого кровь откачивают и заменяют раствором для сохранения органов.
Нет никаких гарантий, что это сработает. Но и смерть ничего не гарантирует. В конце концов, каждый сам может выбрать, как умереть. Но кто-то выберет не умирать никогда.