Could immortality be possible one day? This was the burning question at a talk given in Malaga last Friday by Ginés Morata, member of the Spanish scientific research council (CSIC) and winner of the prestigious Prince of Asturias award in 2007.
“In the future people could live for 600 or 700 years,” Ginés Morata told SUR during a press conference prior to his master class on the subject of genomic medicine, organised by the Malaga medical school and EADE, a private study centre in the city.
If the limits of human life currently oscillate between 110 and 120 years, with both biological and genetic advances, in the future this could reach 600 or 700 years. However, this is dependent on society wanting it and politicians accepting it. “To begin with, we've got to manage to slow down the ageing process considerably, so that, even if they aren't young forever, humans can remain younger for a long period of time,” explained the scientist.
“This will be possible one day, if people think it will be of any use to them. If it can be done with flies, worms and other species, why not with man, considering the number of genes we share with other animals? Another thing is whether or not people will want this.”
When asked when this might be possible, he replied: “Potentially, I believe it'll be possible within the next 50 to 100 years.” The top scientist made it clear that society will have to say whether it is open to these changes or not. “Nobody wants to die. Why should it be impossible for a person to live for 600 years. I personally want to live for much longer,” he revealed.
With regards to immortality, he emphasises that from a scientific point of view and from what is already known about human and animal biology, life may well reach new limits. “I'm not saying that immortality is impossible, although it isn't at this moment. The dream of the human race is to achieve immortality,” the scientist added.
“It's been done on worms”
Morata referenced molecular genetics investigations that have already extended the lives of many living beings. He also mentioned that science has managed to multiply the lifespan of a worm by six times the original, through manipulating the genes related to ageing. Therefore he asks, “if we carry out the same process on human beings, why shouldn't we come to live to 600 or 700 years?”
In addition to those achievements already mentioned, Ginés Morata has received further prizes throughout his career. Born in 1945 in Rioja (Almeria), he has recently been named Foreign Associate at the National Academy of Scientists in the United States.