By TRACEY SAMUELSONNOV. 18, 2014
Alexander Turney, 96, is a participant in a longevity study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. CreditMichael Appleton for The New York Times
For thousands of years, people have sought to escape or outrun their mortality with potions, pills and elixirs, often blended with heavy doses of hope and will.
In the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a Mesopotamian king searched for the secret of immortality after the death of his best friend. At least three Chinese emperors in the Tang dynasty died after consuming treatments containing lead and mercury that they hoped would make them immortal. In the late 19th century, a French-American physiologist seemed to have found the elixir of life by injecting the elderly and himself with extracts from animal testicles.
Despite this enduring quest, most scientists say we are no closer to eternal life today than we were all those years ago. The word “immortality” elicits a mixture of laughter and earnest explanations about the difference between science and science fiction.
Conversations about longevity, however, are an entirely different story. Researchers are optimistic about recent efforts to delay the effects of aging and, perhaps, extend life spans.Photo
But at the same time, the scientific community is wary of how quickly these findings are packaged and resold by companies promising a fountain of youth. “It’s probably worse today than it’s ever been,” said Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. “As soon as the scientists publish any glimmer of hope, the hucksters jump in and start selling.”
Understanding the process of aging and developing treatments that might slow the rate at which people grow old could help doctors keep patients healthy longer. We won’t be able to stop or reverse aging, but researchers are interested in slowing its progress, such that one year of clock time might not equal a year of biological time for the body. That could delay the onset of diseases like cancer, strokes, cardiovascular disease and dementia, which become more prevalent as people age....繼續閱讀