The quest for immortality is something that has preoccupied the human race since our earliest existence. For example, the Chinese alchemists experimented with all sorts of dangerous chemicals in order to come up with something that would enable them to make themselves into immortal beings, while their counterparts over in Europe created the earliest foundations of the modern discipline of chemistry by pursuing the famous philosopher’s stone, which amounted to much the same thing in the end. In contrast, the ancient Egyptians built their tombs and filled them with goods in order to assure the continuing existence of their souls in the afterlife, which is something that resonates with the burial practices of dozens and dozens of other cultures found all around the world. Summed up, the quest for immortality is a quintessential part of the human experience, one that is stronger in the present than it has ever been in the past.
Of course, most of those who are doing so in the present will not call their quest the quest for immortality, though there are always bolder and perhaps more wild-eyed exceptions to this rule. For proof, look no further than the millions and millions of dollars that are being poured into making sure that people nearing the end of their lifespans can live just a little longer. Furthermore, look at the obsession with eating well as well as exercising right, which promise not just the longest lifespans possible but also the best quality of life possible that will make those extended lifespans actually worth living through. With that said, there are also healthcare companies as well as counterparts in other sectors who are working on unlocking the genetic differences that give some people a better chance of making it into their 100s than others as well as all of the environmental factors that can influence the outcome.
This might sound rather unrealistic, but it is important to note that such things are possible, if necessarily something that will happen within our own lifetimes. After all, there are already healthcare companies that have launched successful gene therapies, meaning that we are already capable of treating some otherwise un-treatable medical conditions by changing the actual genes themselves. Combined with the fact that we know of species with either biological immortality or something so similar to it that we have yet to notice a difference, this means that the quest for immortality might not be as impossible for us as it was for our ancestors.
What Companies Are Working on Life Extension?
Here are some examples of the various companies working on either life extension or something related to the concept:
In 2013, Google announced the creation of the California Life Company, which is much better known by the much snappier Calico. Its aim is a simple one – discover the biological mechanisms that are responsible for aging and then come up with something to defeat them so that people can live not just longer lives but also happier and healthier lives as well. To do this, Calico has teamed up with Ancestry.com, which has a DNA database that serves as a convenient source research material for the company. One example of the personnel who can be found at Calico is Cynthia Kenyon, who is a scientist who has already received much acclamation by using genetic engineering to create roundworms that could live up to six times longer than their predecessors, thus proving that life extension was far from being a dream
On a related note, Human Longevity, Inc. was founded in March 2014 as a collaboration between the biologist Craig Venter and the tech entrepreneur Peter Diamandis. Unlike some of the other name mentioned here, its purpose is not to come up with some sort of wonder drug that will cure aging but compile the genome sequences of humans in order to create a useful resource for more research-minded companies such as Calico. By making use of its database, more research-minded companies can jump right to the research, thus eliminating a potential hurdle in their path by sparing them the time and effort needed to find their own research material.
23 and Me is another California-company that specializes in not just genomics but also bio-tech as a whole. Although it has not specifically mentioned that it is working on life extension, the fact that it has refused to comment on the matter suggests that it has some degree of interest in the field, if only because some of its other competitors have joined in.
There are a number of research institutions with a strong interest in the issue of aging. For example, the National Institutes on Aging has a budget that exceeds one billion dollars, which makes it one of the most well-funded national institutes in the country, thus revealing the extent of national interest in the subject. However, it is far from being alone, seeing as how it has more counterparts in not just the public sphere but also the private sphere.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that there is a host of new techniques and technologies that can contribute in some manner to the quest for immortality. For example, while most examples are still in their early stages, there are projects to not just come up with artificial replacements for various organs that can cause death in human beings through their failure but also outright grow them as a simpler and more straightforward alternative to collecting them from donors. Although these do not directly contribute to the quest for immortality, they are nonetheless part of the same by association.
In the end, there is no way to predict what will happen in the future. Never mind exactly when such things will happen. However, the fact that life extension is far from being a hopeless dream is but one of many things that make this a remarkable time to be alive, particularly as more and more of them enter the market so that we can begin benefiting from their unleashed potential.