The vanity of immortality

William Makepiece Thackeray wrote in his novel Vanity Fair ‘Ah, Vanitas Vanitatum – which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?’

The lure of achieving immortality seems to us to fit perfectly what Thackeray understood – that all desires crumble to dust once gained. Immortality, for example, would not satisfy us if we had it.

That doesn’t stop scientists looking for ways to achieve everlasting life mind you. That’s what scientists do. Show them a test tube and they are away with the fairies, never mind the practicalities.

A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions has now published a paper identifying a new class of drugs that purportedly slow aging, alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve cardiac function and extend a healthy lifespan. Oh great.

All this is very far away from immortality for humans, but there’s no doubt that’s the ultimate aim of the research. The scientists have coined the term senolytics for their new class of drugs, which target and kill off senescent cells, the cells thought to be responsible for the aging process. Get rid of senescent cells and perhaps live forever.

If only they could invent drugs to fend off aging, until an individual reaches their own, predetermined age for death. We’d be interested in that.


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