The Quest for Immortality: Can Humans Live Longer?
Since the dawn of time, humanity has dreamed of pushing back the limits of life and overcoming death. Advances in medicine, hygiene and food have made it possible to considerably increase human life expectancy, that is to say the average length of life of a population in a given year. Thus, according to the World Health Organization, life expectancy at birth has fallen from 48 years in 1950 to 72 years in 2016. But what about longevity, ie the maximum length of life of an individual? Is there a biological limit to human lifespan?
The 122-year record
The world record for human longevity is held by Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. For more than 20 years, no human being has exceeded this threshold. In other words, the maximum lifespan seems to be fixed and subject to natural constraints. Indeed, aging is a complex process that involves the gradual decline of physiological functions and the accumulation of cellular and molecular damage. At a certain point, the body’s repair and protection mechanisms are no longer sufficient to maintain homeostasis and prevent age-related diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases.
However, some scientists believe that human longevity has not yet reached its limit and could continue to increase thanks to technological and medical advances. Thus, a study published in 2021 estimated that the maximum human lifespan could be between 125 and 132 years. To achieve this result, the researchers analyzed the biomedical data of more than 500,000 people and identified an indicator called “dynamic age”, which reflects the level of energy and resilience of the body in the face of stress. According to them, this dynamic age could be improved by therapeutic or preventive interventions aimed at slowing aging.
Other researchers go further and consider the possibility of eternal life, or at least extreme longevity. They are exploring avenues such as cloning, consciousness transfer, cryogenization, nanomedicine or even genetic modification. These approaches are still science fiction, but they testify to the human aspiration to transcend his mortal condition.
Human lifespan is a fascinating subject that questions the biological, ethical and philosophical aspects of our existence. While life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent centuries, longevity appears to have plateaued around 120 years. However, some scientists believe that this limit is not insurmountable and that it is possible to further increase the maximum lifespan thanks to technological and medical advances. The question then remains whether living longer means living better and whether humanity is ready to assume the consequences of such an evolution.