Could we live to 140? 1,000? Is there a limit? Scientific research into extending the human lifespan is being backed by Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook. In 1900, life expectancy was 35. Now it’s over 83. But more people die than are born. Armed with data, the molecular biologist María Blasco forecasts “a very different” society for the future. “There will be fewer of us than there are now, but we will live much longer,” says the head of the Spanish National Center for Cancer Research, who has spent more than 20 years studying microscopic DNA structures and the molecules known as telomeres.Telomeres protect chromosomes and their length acts as a biomarker – an aging and health yardstick, according to Blasco, who looks vaguely like a grunge singer. As cells divide over time, the telomeres get shorter and shorter until they are so short our cells can no longer reproduce. The human body tries to stop this process naturally with another enzyme called telomerase – a sort of reset button for the telomere. The telomerase is the key to Blasco’s research. In 2008, she and her team injected telomerase into mice extending their lives by 40%, suggesting that it has the capacity to reverse the aging process.
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