If Aubrey de Grey's prediction
s are right, the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born. And the first person to live for 1,000 years could be less than 20 years younger.
A biomedical gerontologist
and chief scientist of a foundation dedicated to longevity research, de Grey reckons that within his own lifetime doctors could have all the tools they need to "cure" aging -- banishing diseases that come with it and extending life indefinitely
"I'd say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I'd call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so," de Grey said in an interview before delivering a lecture at Britain's Royal Institution academy of science.
"And what I mean by decisive
is the same sort of medical control that we have over most infectious diseases today."
De Grey sees a time when people will go to their doctors for regular "maintenance
," which by then will include gene therapies, stem cell therapies, immune stimulation and a range of other advanced medical techniques to keep them in good shape.
De Grey lives near Cambridge University where he won his doctorate in 2000 and is chief scientific officer of the non-profit California-based SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation, which he co-founded in 2009.
He describes aging as the lifelong accumulation of various types of molecular and cellular damage throughout the body.
"The idea is to engage in what you might call preventative
geriatrics, where you go in to periodically repair that molecular and cellular damage before it gets to the level of abundance that is pathogenic
," he explained.
For some, the prospect of living for hundreds of years is not particularly attractive, either, as it conjures up an image of generations of sick, weak old people and societies increasingly less able to cope.
But de Grey says that's not what he's working for. Keeping the killer diseases of old age at bay is the primary focus.
"This is absolutely not a matter of keeping people alive in a bad state of health," he told Reuters. "This is about preventing people from getting sick as a result of old age. The particular therapies that we are working on will only deliver long life as a side effect of delivering better health."