Will The Biomedical Technologies of 2030 Grant Another 20 Years of Life?

Cards on the table: the wrong side of 40 looms for some of us. The present regulatory systems for medical development in the US and most other regions contributing meaningfully to progress don't look likely to become any less oppressive in the years ahead. It presently takes ten to twenty years to move a good research result out of trials and into the clinics, and that time frame is largely based on organizational activities and regulatory make-work that won't be speeded up by ongoing advances in biotechnology. Furthermore, the regulatory environment destroys or prevents many beneficial development programs by making them unprofitable.

This means that present glimmers of medical technologies capable of repairing specific forms of biochemical damage, such as work on mitochondrial repair, will most likely not be available for general use until people like me are hitting 60. They won't ever be available for healthy people "aging normally" inside US borders absent a revolution in the way the FDA operates. The same goes for organ replacement, other forms of growing any new tissue you like to order, rebooting the immune system, and so on.

Here is today's speculation: will these technologies of 2030 be good enough to grant an additional 20 years of life? How much certainty will there be by that time that these technologies will extend life significantly in humans? These are not questions that can be answered with any degree of certainty - you can only speculate.

People of my generation are most likely not going to get two shots at this. If the technology of 2030 isn't up to the task, then we don't plausibly get to wait around to 2050 and age 80. The trouble with being 80 is that (a) many people don't in fact make it that far, even allowing for a continuing upward trend in life expectancy, and (b) you may no longer be robust enough to have a good chance of surviving early rejuvenation therapies. The clock is ticking.

I have said in the past that, from a pure research timeline perspective, by 2040 we'll plausibly have all the technologies needed to repair and reverse aging. Unfortunately when we look beyond the laboratory, the field is strewn with roadblocks of legislation, slowing everything down. Even the time taken for new businesses to raise capital, try, fail, and try again is less than the delays imposed by the ball and chain of regulation.


Something to consider is by 2030 medical advances may be coming more from China than Western nations.

Chinese universities and government research programs might not feel so limited in the objectives of their research into aging as western institutions seem to feel.

The Chinese leaders definately don't feel so limited with what mass engineering can accomplish as western nations. Western nations usually feel today that they can't meet the challenges like meeting future electrical demand.

Posted by: aa2 at April 24th, 2009 12:35 AM

CR (Calorie Restriction) seems to be not practical way of extending life (though interesting) - but what about periodic fasting instead? Maybe that gives same or better results?

Posted by: jakob at April 24th, 2009 3:59 AM

In other words, we also need some political shifts. But there were many in the past (even the recent one of Obama vs. Bush), and certainly there will be some in the future. Political decision making must be speeded up.

Besides, I see inevitable need to legalize the concept of "cure for aging" from the fact that Boomers are aging in millions while losing their savings and pensions due to the crisis. The need to improve their health – and productivity! — is becoming a strategical issue, not only a niche market. So the idea of "to be healthy means to be young" year by year will become more and more popular. Today it is just out of public attention (unfortunately for pre-Boomers).

Posted by: User at April 24th, 2009 10:39 AM

A few years ago a person I know needed a new kind of hip surgery that wasn't approved in the US yet. He went to India to have it done. It had first been developed in some Western country, not in India, but the Indian hospital could do it.

Once the technology actually works and is safe, there will be places where it can be used. The more dramatic the results, the greater the political pressure to make it available within the US.

Posted by: Infidel753 at April 24th, 2009 1:40 PM

predictions about things 30 years from now are going to be very inaccurate

we might get there (anti-aging technology) sooner, or not in the next 100 years (as Aubrey has said himself)

Sadly, I've not seen anything at all exciting here in the last few years, even though De Grey talked about 10 to 15 years for the technology to be there for mice, and Kurzweil same.

Don't mean to be pessimistic but predictions are often wildly inaccurate

Posted by: jay at April 27th, 2009 11:14 AM

I think all it needs is one demonstrated life-extending therapy in humans. At the moment people just don't believe it's possible, but once they see that it is, money will flow like crazy. Who wants to be the last to die, after all??

Posted by: William Nelson at April 29th, 2009 5:09 PM

I'm curious Reason, do you think freezing their stem cells, as some people are doing, might address at least part of the "robustness issue" and 80 year old might have? Regardless of the answer, nobody can know the future for sure, so we might as well all put 100% of our spare time and $ into orgs like the SENS Fdn and Methuselah Fdn; it would be awful to miss out of reversing aging by just a few years due to laziness and lack of discipline.

Posted by: Kim at December 26th, 2010 6:00 PM

@Kim: No, I don't think freezing stem cells has any real value for healthy people. I think that (a) by the time it came to use them, researchers will well understand how to repair any issues that exist in aging stem cells, and (b) the most recent research is leaning towards there being fewer problems with stem cell therapies in the old than were first imagined.

Posted by: Reason at December 26th, 2010 6:09 PM
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