Timeline Predictions From Heber-Katz and Miller

Buried amidst stock silliness in a standard mainstream media look-ahead piece, we have this brief quote from Ellen Heber-Katz, of organ-regenerating mice fame.

Life on Earth will also be transformed, scientists predict, with farms designated to grow human organs. By 2056, even the most sophisticated medicine of the 20th century will begin to look barbaric.

There will be no need to take transplant organs from dead people, according to Bruce Lahn, a human geneticist at the University of Chicago. Instead, human organs will be grown in animals such as pigs. "When a patient needs a new organ - a kidney, say - the surgeon will contact a commercial organ producer and supply them with the patient's immunological profile ... One organ that is probably off limits though is the brain."

Another way forward is drugs to regrow lost limbs and organs. "Advances in heart regeneration are around the corner, digits will be regrown within five to 10 years, and limb regeneration will occur a few years later," Ellen Heber-Katz at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia told the magazine. "Within 50 years whole-body replacement will be routine."

You might recall that Heber-Katz was one of the presenters at the SENS2 conference - there's even an mp3 recording of her presentation on the MRL mice amidst the conference records, if you are interested.

Interestingly, we find out a little more about Richard Miller's thoughts on the future of healthy life extension from the same piece:

It might not lead to an elixir for life, but by 2056, scientists anticipate unravelling the crucial complex molecular mechanisms that govern wear and tear in our cells, causing damage that manifests as ageing. Richard Miller, professor of pathology at the University of Michigan, envisages "the first class of centenarians who are as vigorous and productive as today's run-of-the-mill sexagenarians".

Miller famously holds the opinion that SENS - the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, a repair-based approach to research into extending healthy life - is so much nonsense. Miller is one of the backers of the Longevity Dividend initiative - a metabolic manipulation approach to research aimed at slowing aging - that is gathering steam.

As I've noted all too many times in the past weeks, repairing damage to reverse aging and reducing the rate of damage to slow aging are two very, very different approaches to the same problem; one is very much better than the other, in my opinion.

On that note: it has to be said, if all we manage after 50 more years of the biotechnology revolution (and the advanced nanotechnology that will follow) is a mere 40 years of healthy life extension ... well, we must have all been sleeping on the job. Take a look at the computers of 1956 and the computers of 2006 and draw your own conclusions as to what can be done in 50 years if the will is there.

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It involves a great amount of future-shock (more than most can handle, perhaps), but I think, like Marshal Brain, that the best way to extend our lifespans is to *discard our bodies*. If we are all going to migrate onto circuits, and live in virtual realities, then all of this fuss over keeping our bodies alive and healthy is like fussing over an old and battered Volvo that you are about to dump, after purchasing a new Ferrari (albeit, a virtual Ferrari).

Posted by: Kip Werking at November 15th, 2006 11:06 PM

I don't think it's a simple matter of the "will" being there. Research and development only happen when the proper incentives are in place. This means we need responsible economic policy including a commitment to low taxes, small fiscal deficits, responsible monetary policy, government funding of basic scientific research (including stem cells) and perhaps R&D tax credits. We've done remarkably well in this vein over the past fifty years, with a few notable exceptions.

Posted by: Giant Step at November 16th, 2006 9:54 AM
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