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Living longer is no longer just an alchemist’s fantasy

Since the beginning of civilization, great men have spent their entire lives looking for the key to immortality, from the mighty Pharoahs of ancient Egypt to the eternal optimists that choose to be frozen rather than face the great unknown. What is organized religion if not a quest for immortality? Whether you believe in heaven or reincarnation, you’re essentially banking on the concept that the spiritual you will be around forever, regardless of whatever happens to your mortal coil.

Ponce de Lion met his end in Florida at the hand of the Seminoles in his quest for the Fountain of Youth. For 900 years, some of the leading scientific minds in Europe practised the art of alchemy, looking for an elusive "Philiospher’s Stone" that could turn lead into gold and restore harmony to the four elements in our corporeal bodies, allowing us to live forever. Political and economic motivations aside, Medieval crusades into the Holy Land were charged with the task of finding the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. Among other beliefs of the day, whoever drinks from the Grail is supposed to attain immortal life.

While our civilization is more advanced in many ways, the pursuit of a long life is still a powerful motivator for many people. For some it’s only important to look and feel young for as long as possible within our life spans – look at the popularity of cosmetic surgery. For others, it’s a matter of quality and quantity of life.

We haven’t found a path to immortality just yet, but the ability to prolong our lifespans – maybe even double them – may not be too far away.

Both the scientific and medical community are pushing the boundaries to the point that it’s not unrealistic to expect that humans could live 150 years or more.

According to the most recent issue of the journal Science, over the past 160 years the average human lifespan has increased by three months every year within developed countries.

"The key issue for policymakers to understand from our study is that there appears to be no finite limit for life expectancy," stated James Vaupel of Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

The statement doesn’t refer to one scientific breakthrough or set of lifestyle choices, but is based on a combination of factors rooted in science, medicine, nutrition and quality of life.

Within the Science of Aging Knowledge Environment (SAGE KE) database, an online resource shared by researchers, there are papers on cell biology, evolution, DNA repair, genetics, hormone regulation, oxidative damage, physiology, immunoscience, neurobiology, diseases, geriatrics and a wide variety of other topics. The sum total of this research could provide the key that could enable humans to live longer.