Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Life Span: Limits

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Health, Medicine, Nature of Science, Soceity, Culture

Ed Hessler

We have become somewhat numbed to what seem like yearly reports on the increase of the human life span.

In a recent report on research at the University of Minnesota, Deane Morrison reports on findings into this issue. Professor Craig Packer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBB) in the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) was a member of a large and diverse international team of researchers published a paper with "evidence that nature has placed constraints on how much the underlying rate of aging can be slowed." 

Packer told Morrison that "Essentially all of the extension in lifespan over tha past century has resulted from improved nutrition and publish health." Furthermore, he continued, "Any further increase by slowing the aging process will have to overcome powerful evolutionary constraints."

What the researchers did was analyze a large collection of data from a great variety of nonhuman primates and also nine sets of data on human "populations that had not benefited from modern advances in medicine, public health, and standards of living, taking account mortality rates that are dependent on age and those that are independent of age, such as accidents. Then they turned to computer simulations on the effects of variation to see which would result in differences.

Our rate of aging is set by nature. Packer noted that“continued improvements in nutrition and public health are unlikely to translate into a substantial further reduction in the rate of aging. It remains to be seen if future advances in medicine can address the underlying cellular processes that currently limit maximum human lifespans that have largely been determined by the long, slow process of evolution.

Morrison's reporting may be seen here which includes a link to the scientific publication, all of which may be read, including tables and graphs, on line. All of the investigators and their affiliations are listed as well as governments which participated. There may be some sections of this paper which are of particular interest to you.

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