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Do the Anti-Aging Drugs Work?

March 20, 2035 - There was a lot of buzz around the life extension drugs that hit the market a decade ago. They didn’t promise you to live forever but they gave you a chance to maybe extend your life with an extra five to ten years. But do they work?

The life expectancy rate at birth is currently about 82 years in the US, up from 78 years in 2005. But even though the life expectancy rate at birth has increased significantly, the life expectancy for seniors hasn’t improved that much. Basically, you have a greater chance to become senior, but you will not have a much longer lifespan, and this is where the anti-aging drugs intend to kick in.

Life extension came to public knowledge in the beginning of the 1980s and has mainly been based on a couple of different preventive methods. Calorie restriction combined with an in general healthy diet, and nutritional supplementation with for instance antioxidant supplements like vitamins.

Then there are a lot of other methods related to extending life, like replacing organs and repairing damaged tissues, and for instance the development in regeneration that makes parts of your body grow back. These methods though are still mainly available to people in general health care. A good bet to live longer is still to keep up a healthy lifestyle with less stress, plenty of physical exercise and proper diet.

I sat down with Stella Eggen from Sedalia, Missouri on her 103rd birthday last week. Stella is a virile woman with lively eyes and a crisp mind. She had to give up playing tennis at the age of 91 because her eight year younger tennis partner couldn’t keep up the pace.

Stella is born on the same day in 1932 as George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company and inventor of roll film, committed suicide at the age of 77. George ended his life to avoid a battle with spinal stenosis, a medical condition that occurs with aging (he left a suicide note that read: “My work is done. Why wait?”).

I asked Stella if she had heard about the life extension drugs. “Of course I’ve heard of them, people keep reminding me all the time, even though they know that the drugs will not have any effect on me. I am too old”, she says with a smile.

But if they had been available earlier would she have been interesting in taken them? “I don’t know. I’m pretty satisfied with the life I’ve had but of course I wouldn’t mind to stay around for another decade. But taking drugs regularly for half my life to make that extra decade, I probably could have spent my money on better things.”

“My grandson got one of these space trips for Christmas. He says he has become an entirely new person after he got out in space for thirty minutes, looking down on Earth. I think that prolonged his life more than any drugs could. If I only could pass the physics test I would have liked to join.”

Apart from the space trip, if she could live her life all over what would she then do differently? “You can always regret things that you didn’t do more, but one shouldn’t dig to deep into that. But I wish I had made more true friends, and taken more chances, not worrying about a lot of stupid things, and eaten more ice cream, I love ice cream.” Then she slowly leans towards me “...and had more sex of course”, she whispers giggling.

So, do the anti-aging drugs work? Well, it is way too early to tell. The sales so far clearly show that people at least are willing to give it a try, and with the annual cost of US$1,300 per person, the companies behind the dream are making good money.

It will take about 30 to 40 more years for the study groups to reach the age where the researchers can give some sort of definite answer about the final effect, if they ever will. During this time new drugs will hit the market and have the same time span to give a proper result. So if you should take the drugs or not, and which drug you should take, will during your lifetime (whether you succeed to extend it or not) be up to your own belief.

Until then you can enjoy your life more if you go on a space trip, don’t stress, stop worrying, take more chances and have more, yes you know what I cream, of course.

Argument: The numbers of the current US life expectancy rate at birth comes from the National Center for Health Statistics. The future of anti-aging drugs are based on several sources, for instance the article “Resveratrol may slow aging” from Fortune Magazine. Information about George Eastman can be found at Wikipedia.

Questions: What other developments in the near future can prolong human life? Should there be any limits for what actions that could be taken to extend human life?

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