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Forget immortality. New evidence of 150-year maximum limit to human life

By Jeff Spry
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Unless your name's Vlad Dracula, you've somehow discovered the Holy Grail, or you recently stumbled upon the fabled Fountain of Youth, any ideas of living forever will most likely remain a fanciful delusion as a new research paper has put a cap on human longevity at 150 as an extreme limit.

This new study, recently presented to the online journal Nature Communications by the Singapore-based biotech company Gero, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, and the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, details how human beings have the biological capacity to live 120-150 years as an "absolute limit."

According to their semi-depressing conclusions, researchers employed mathematical modeling to predict that once the body clock taps out at roughly 150 years of age, our bodies lose their abilities to bounce back from any sort of trauma, stress, or illness, leading to your ultimate demise.

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"Studies like this one rely on historic and present data from populations of people," Judith Campisi, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California who was not a part of the study, told Live Science. "It's guessing, but based on good numbers." 

Comprehensive datasets that included anonymous medical records and blood tests for over 500,000 individuals were enlisted from the U.S., the U.K., and Russia to compile the team's sobering statistics. Studies of this nature, ones that might not take into full consideration a person's lifestyle, income, socio-economic status, exercise, and diet , are used as a guide only and often tend to be inexact.

Researchers targeted two specific numbers obtained from blood tests for three diverse age groups: a ratio of two types of disease-fighting white blood cells; and a measure of variability in red blood cell size.

"Just as a person might have grayer hair as they age, these two numbers go up as a person ages," said Dr. Marc J. Kahn, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine University of Nevada in Las Vegas, who was not aboard the study. "Scientists call these biomarkers of aging." 

After taking the results of the blood tests, they then fed the data into a computer model to arrive at something the team calls a person's "dynamic organism state indicator" (DOSI), which is basically a measure of "biological age" that quantifies how well a person might recover from stressors such as illnesses or injuries.

"The authors are able to use this DOSI … to measure recovery time," noted Kahn. "The problem is at a certain point in aging, the recovery time is so great that we lose resiliency." 

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Scientists involved in the study included data regarding levels of exercise and physical activity, recorded as the number of steps taken per day, as another component of validation. As expected, younger persons are generally far more active than those of a more advanced age. Simply having the capacity to exist on Earth to the ripe old age of 150 doesn't necessarily mean those years would have a corresponding quality.

"That has huge societal implications, much more than maximum life span," Campisi said

Resiliency in old age seems to be the key to life extension and scientists believe that if resiliency can be bolstered, then a person's health span over the decades would follow. Science fiction-like inventions like mechanical organs and reprogrammed cellular therapies might help add years to human existence.

"Now, we're talking about the whole concept of human and mechanical constructs that are features of science fiction," Kahn explained. "It's really going to take those types of things to extend human [life span]."

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