A Certain Immortality

The work of Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova on the influence of birth order and mother's age on longevity is receiving press attention again. Earlier actuarial studies showing that birth order correlates with life expectancy is explained by the mother's age relationship - younger mothers seem to mean a greater life expectancy for the children.

The chances of living to the ripe old age of 100 -- and beyond -- nearly double for a child born to a woman before her 25th birthday, Drs. Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova reported. The father's age is less important to longevity, according to their research.

In a previous study, the husband and wife research team of Gavrilov and Gavrilova identified birth order as a possible predictor of an exceptionally long life. They observed that first-born children, especially daughters, are much more likely to live to age 100.

But their latest research suggests that it is the young age of the mother, rather than birth order, which is significant to longevity.

This can be tied in with the researchers' reliability theory of aging - younger mothers are producing children with a lower initial load of cellular or genetic damage. This is a conceptual framework for thinking about the processes and advance of degenerative aging; it poses many more questions than it answers, says nothing about the underlying biochemistry, and exists to guide future research.

The research serves as a reminder that a certain immortality runs through humanity and its biochemical components: for all that we suffer age-related degeneration - and frailty, pain and death as a result - we produce healthy, youthful children with each new generation. Our cellular biochemistry contains the potential to rejuvenate and repair itself: children are the demonstrable proof that decay and entropy are not inevitable. We must progress as fast as possible to understanding and developing the means by which our present decay as individuals can be arrested, and our healthy life spans greatly extended.

The threads of immortality that wend their way through humanity as a whole - and the ongoing daily demonstration of the effectiveness of our biochemistry to turn back time - form a romantic notion. But you can't enjoy romance when you're dead and buried, nor when you're suffering unto death. Via science, we are capable of better and more practical approaches to the toll of degenerative aging than hiding our heads in the sands of romantic appreciation.

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