Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Molecular Life Extension

By Cynthia Forlini and Ainsley Newson

Alongside the question of whether we can treat ageing is the question of whether we should.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

It is a universal certainty that we will all die one day. And we have a near-universal goal for our deaths to come painlessly after a long and full life.

Of course illness, disease and accident can cut life short. For many of us, however, our deaths will come as a result of growing old and our bodies gradually failing us.

But should we accept this biological status quo as the basis of our lives? Or is ageing something to rail against and try to defeat?

We already engage in plenty of strategies that claim to slow the outward signs of ageing of our bodies. We also eat well and exercise to protect our hearts and our bones. We continue to read and think to protect our minds. But now, a growing number of geneticists and molecular biologists are seeking a cure for the ageing process itself.

Researchers in Australia and internationally are investigating a number of compounds that might extend life by intervening in key genetic and metabolic pathways. The goal is to live a longer life free of the decline we typically associate with ageing – lower energy, susceptibility to illness, frailty.

While this is no doubt cutting-edge science, it raises some big questions that haven’t yet been debated in much depth. Alongside the question of whether we can treat ageing (as we do for many individual diseases) is the question of whether we should.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.