Recent advances in science and technology have some pondering whether human immortality is within reach. It is possible that the first human to live forever has already been born? Scientists are working on genetic editing, artificial intelligence and robotics that will be implemented into human bodies in the near future. Some refer to the unison of the human body and high-tech devices as “transhumanism”. A handful of skeptics fear this merger of body and high-tech devices as it cedes control of oneself to those in charge of the technology. Regardless of transhumanism’s merit, the question is whether aging is a social construct or an inescapable biological truth.
The Race Against the Biological Clock
There is a clear push developing within the scientific community to gain a comprehensive understanding of the aging process on a cellular level. When cells divide, cellular DNA breaks apart, causing increased susceptibility to disease. Some thought telomeres were essential to slowing the aging process yet they have turned out to be more complex than first thought. Telomeres that are excessively long can cause health problems like cancer. Telomeres wear down during the aging process. Scientists initially believed they could lengthen telomere strands for heightened DNA protection that would extend lifespan. However, research has shown that several cellular processes work in unison to determine telomere lengths.
Scientists in labs across the globe are examining molecular mechanisms that shorten and expand telomere length to determine if the perfect telomere length can be achieved. Genetic editing technology is advancing quite rapidly. As an example, the process for modifying DNA, known as “CRISPR/Cas9”, has empowered scientists to make specific genetic alterations in mammalian cells. This process will likely prove quite important in efforts to combat diseases and prolong lifespans.