Biological Immortality in Late Life (credit: Michael R. Rose, Laurence Mueller)
Over the years, Rose and his lab have bred fruit flies to live four times the life span of an average fruit fly. Reasoning from those studies, Rose has proposed that, because the life spans of fruit flies have the genetic capability to be extensively prolonged, human life can be manipulated in the same way.
Last December, Rose spoke at a wide-ranging conference at Caltech called Humanity Plus, but he was not talking fruit flies. He was talking about humans, about “Building Methuselahs,” and about, as the conference session was named, “Radically Increasing the Human Healthspan.”
Rose’s natural recipe for immortality
* Adopt a hunter-gatherer lifestyle after 35 to 40 if Eurasian, earlier if ancestry is less Eurasian. If younger than 30 and Eurasian, continue on a post-agricultural revolution diet (or Andrew Weil-style diet).
* Use the best modern medicine
* Use autologous (from your own cells) tissue repair as it becomes available in five or more years
* Use next-generation pharmaceuticals in the next 10 or more years
“With this recipe, I feel, many of you could be alive, basically, indefinitely,” Rose said.
The paleo diet, sometimes called the “caveman diet,” is one that mimics the diet of our ancestral hunter-gatherer ancestors in the Paleolithic era before the advent of the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic and animal husbandry.
It includes meats, seafoods, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It excludes processed foods (including meats), grain-derived foods such as pasta and breads, and dairy-derived foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese.
Proponents of the diet such as Loren Cordain and S. Boyd Eaton argue that the agricultural revolution caused an “evolutionary discordance” between diet and our “genetically determined biology” as shaped through evolution.
Rose advocates a diet of food that our ancestors were accustomed to thousands of years ago. Often referred to as the “Paleolithic diet”, it includes meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts—food that’s not often a part of today’s preservative-ridden, over-processed cuisine. Winding back the clock back even more, the invention of agriculture alone isn’t part of human nature as biology intended it. For most of our existence, humans have had a diet that consists of natural foods (hence the “Caveman diet” nickname). According to Rose, natural selection has favored physiological adaptations that help us process those types of foods without developing diseases or disorders from them.
Rose’s “Recipe for Natural Immortality” begins with adopting the diet of a hunter-gatherer when you turn 35. The next step is to use the best of modern medicine to get you to the immortality plateau. Then, as time passes and technology continues to advance and becomes more available, use autologous tissue repair (a type of repair in which tissue is derived from your own body). This type of tissue replacement, used for the generation of skin graft tissue, corneal cells, heart muscle, and more, isn’t something that Rose personally works on, but is imperative to incorporate this therapy in a venture towards immortality. Think of the body like a vintage car. If you replace certain parts as the years go by, it can keep running indefinitely—a well-oiled machine. Finally, Rose advocates for “new-generation pharmaceuticals” as they become available in about ten years.
While Rose believes that humans can reach a plateau of biological immortality where personal death odds become constant, De Grey is convinced that a large percent of aging is due to accumulated damage in the body. Personal death odds increase as damage accumulates. Rather than stopping aging at an earlier age and maintaining the properties of middle-aged person, De Grey thinks that aging, as a product of accumulating damage, can happen and then be repaired. The exponential curve that Rose’s studies have demonstrated to level off at the end are inaccurate, said De Grey. The curve actually levels off, rises, and then levels off again. He believes that we cannot tell whether an immortality curve actually exists because we don’t have a direct way to tell how each individual’s risk of mortality is changing during life.