For much of the developed world, death seems to occur most often around age 80. That’s actually not that different today as it was even thousands of years ago. As it says in the Bible, “The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years.” (Psalms 89:10) So for much of recorded history, as long as you made it to adulthood, you could expect to live until age 70-80. Why can’t we live longer?
Scientists have recently discovered why that may be, and it has a lot to do with DNA mutations. It seems that species who experience high rates of DNA mutations die sooner than those whose DNA mutates slower. But perhaps interestingly, it appears that the maximum number of mutations for any animal species is around 3,200. Once an individual reaches that number of mutations, it appears to signal a critical mass of mutations that causes the body to stop functioning.
That would make it seem to appear that slowing the rate of DNA mutation would be the key to living longer. Our bodies are constantly producing new cells to replace old ones. Every so often a mistake occurs, resulting in a mutated cell. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
Then there are external factors that can contribute to DNA mutations in cells, things that damage our cells and tissues. Those can include smoke, ultraviolet light, or viruses. So minimizing exposure to those factors can also be highly beneficial.
Of course, the key for any individual is knowing how many mutations your body has undergone and how many you have left. And that’s something we just don’t know right now. But now that we seem to have unlocked the key to figuring out why some people live longer than others, and why certain animal species live longer than others, it’s probably only a matter of time before we’re able to figure out how long we ourselves have to live.
Just imagine being able to know exactly how many mutations your cells had undergone, and how much more time you had to live. You’d certainly be incentivized to use your time more wisely.
Or imagine that scientists figure out a way to undo cell mutations so that you can keep away from that 3200-mutation limit and keep living for even longer. Wouldn’t that be amazing? It may not happen within our lifetimes, but perhaps our children or grandchildren might be able to benefit from these scientific advances.