The Limits of Human Life Span
March, 1999, New York Times article, "Pushing
LImits of the Human Lifespan", summarizes
the gerontological state of affairs two years ago. At that time, gerontological
"We know we can extend the life span of mammals," said Dr. Judith Campisi, who heads the department of cellular and molecular biology at the Berkeley National Laboratory. "There is no reason to believe that we couldn't do the same today in humans."
"It is probably possible," said Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California at San Francisco. "The lights are green everywhere you go," she added.
She cites, for example, the life spans of three small mammals: the mouse, the canary and the bat. Mice live 2 years, canaries live 13, and bats live for 50 years.
"I don't know why evolution selected for different life spans, but it did," Dr. Kenyon said
In the workshop sessions and in private discussions scientists explained why they were so impassioned and why they came to believe that genes controlled life spans.
Even as the scientists spoke of what might lie ahead, some drew back, nervous about public reactions and stung by their experiences when they voiced their opinions.
Dr. Campisi of Berkeley said she recently gave a public lecture on aging on her campus. Afterward, she said, "a number of people came up to me and said, 'How dare you do this research? The earth is already being raped by too many people, there is so much garbage, so much pollution."'
"I was really quite taken aback," Dr. Campisi said. "It was a small group but they just about nailed me to the wall."
|:Left: Dr. Campisi
Below: Dr. Kenyon