No one in human history has been documented to live longer than 122 years. Yet progress in prolonging the life and health of laboratory animals has raised the very real prospect that treatments may soon be available which would allow someone to live as long as 150 years.
Two respected researchers have placed a $500 million wager on how soon that will happen. What are these life-extending treatments? How solid is the evidence that they slow aging itself? How soon will we know something about their impact on human health? What would be the social and environmental impact, and what are the ethical concerns, if people routinely lived 25% longer than they do now? Are we reaching for the Holy Grail or the Poison Chalice of biomedical research? These questions and others will be addressed in this lecture.
The thirty-forth Kinter Lecture is given in memory of William B. Kinter, Ph.D., an investigator at the MDI Biological Laboratory from 1963 until his untimely death in 1978. Kinter’s interest in the effect of toxic compounds in the environment led to landmark papers on the effect of pesticides on eggshell thinning in birds. Studies of basic physiological effects of environmental pollutants, including crude oil, on the molecular and cellular level occupied him primarily until his death. Kinter’s own contributions, as well as those of his colleagues, were instrumental in shaping this branch of research at the MDI Biological Laboratory.