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July 22nd, 2009
In Pursuit of Immortality: The science behind life extension
Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have searched for the key to immortality and eternal youth. From the epic of Gilgamesh, recorded on clay tablets around 2000 B.C., to Ponce de Leon's famed search for the fountain of youth in the new world, the extension of life has been a recurring theme for humanity.
Today, scientists are coming closer than ever to making real medical breakthroughs that will "cure" aging and eventually bring an end to natural death. Pharmaceutical discoveries, and advances in the fields of nanotechnology, cloning, stem cell research and cryonics offer tantalizing glimpses at a future free from old age, and the ability to actually reverse the aging process itself - possibilities that life extension experts feel could become a reality by 2019. Of course, along with these discoveries come ethical questions about the meaning of life in the absence of death and the fate of religion, as well as concerns about overpopulation, boredom and why anyone would really want to live forever.
If the claims of life extension proponents sound far fetched, consider the fact that the average human lifespan has doubled since 1900 and continues to increase. Enormous medical advances occurred during the 20th century, resulting in the development of medications and technology that were once unthinkable. Less than 100 years ago, insulin was unknown and type 1 diabetes was a fatal and mysterious disease. Now, insulin is an inexpensive and easily obtainable drug that saves lives every day. Other medical devices that are common today, like internal pacemakers and contact lenses, were unthinkable just 100 years ago, and the rate of medical and scientific advances continues to increase.
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