Boosting Life Span By Clearing Out Cellular Clutter

Feb 4, 2016

Photo credit: Philippe Merle/AFP/Getty Images

By Nell Greenfieldboyce

Mice were much healthier and lived about 25 percent longer when scientists killed off a certain kind of cell that accumulates in the body with age.

What’s more, the mice didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from losing their so-called senescent cells.

These are cells that have stopped dividing, though not necessarily because the cells themselves are old. “It’s a normal cell that experienced an unusual amount of stress, and it decided to stop dividing,” says Jan van Deursen, who studies senescent cells at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Older creatures have a lot more of these cells than young ‘uns. And even though the cells aren’t dividing, they do keep busy — they secrete a mixture of chemicals that can trigger inflammation, which seems to be involved in just about every major age-related disease.

So van Deursen and his colleagues wanted to know: What would happen if you simply got rid of senescent cells? That’s tough to do in humans, but possible in mice.


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6 comments on “Boosting Life Span By Clearing Out Cellular Clutter

  • Could you imagine the havoc on human society with the sudden introduction of a 25% life extension?
    We would need to change the retirement age. We woud need to figure out how to finance an extended retirement. We would more homes for all the people who refuse to die.

    For decades we would pretend not to notice.



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  • I think with so many poor countries comming up to meet the rich in medical availability and longer lives, that if we focus on longevity, making each ‘unit’ more functional (health + skilling-up for more world manipulation) and freeing women via equality to help lower the birth rates (in addition to equality (no hippy reason we’re losing inventions never invented)..

    Then if we get a working system down we can be ahead of the curve by forging the template.

    Housing can be sorted by proportional birthrates.
    The awkward truth is that it doesn’t really even matter who is doing the breeding, three gen down the line humans are made from so many coding fragments that the resulting breeding pool is near identical, and with time identical.

    Humans really are physically factually that similar.
    I also think that as what we burn over a life cumulatively alters the sky..long lives may help environmentalism.



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  • Daniel Parker
    Feb 5, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    The awkward truth is that it doesn’t really even matter who is doing the breeding, three gen down the line humans are made from so many coding fragments that the resulting breeding pool is near identical, and with time identical.

    Evolution really does not work like that! There is diversity in the gene-pool, with genes producing disabilities and variations in abundance. – Many poor quality zygotes and embryos are spontaneously aborted – particularly if the mothers are under stress.
    We have a global mix because of transport systems, but that does not mean that transplanted individuals cannot be maladapted to their new environments.

    If the less capable or less healthy, do most of the breeding, the population degenerates over time!



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  • Could you imagine the havoc on human society with the sudden introduction of a 25% life extension?

    I happen to have a stock answer ready whenever people make this argument against immortality research:

    We have to deal with overpopulation anyway. And if the best solution you can offer for dealing with overpopulation is “let the excess die”, you have no right to call yourself a good guy.
    So lets talk overpopulation. What exactly is the problem with having lots of humans? Food? Clean water? Electricity? Housing? With the most efficient technology we have today (no new tech needed) we could feed 10 billion humans with 0.5% of the landmass of the Earth. Using power use data from Norway (second most power use per capita in the world), 0.2% of the landmass of the Earth is needed to provide power to 10 billion via solar power alone (and without any advances in solar power tech). If we need to use power to clean water for all those people, that power use might double in a worse case scenario. So it would take 1% of our landmass to provide food, water and power to 10 billion people (if we were to limit ourselves to clean and reliable technology that exists today).

    Now if we tried to fit 10 billion people into 1% of the land mass of Earth, we’d have about 150 square meters per person. That’s how big the planet is. With 150 square meters per person, that would give us a population density around that of Singapore or Hong Kong.

    Now I could argue that as life expectancy goes up, children per couple tends to drop. I could talk about the rapidly dropping costs of space flight, or how emerging technologies will make farming, energy generation and water filtering far more space efficient. But the simple fact remains that with today’s technologies we could (in theory) house every human that has ever lived six times over before we ran out of surface area on planet Earth.



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  • Magnus Ulstein
    Feb 6, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Now I could argue that as life expectancy goes up, children per couple tends to drop. I could talk about the rapidly dropping costs of space flight, or how emerging technologies will make farming, energy generation and water filtering far more space efficient. But the simple fact remains that with today’s technologies we could (in theory) house every human that has ever lived six times over before we ran out of surface area on planet Earth.

    Of course that would escalate the present mass extinction of other Earth organisms, and the destruction of ecosystems, but it would (for a while), accommodate the human over-population, before the inevitable crash in numbers which follows population explosions.



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