Most approaches aimed at combating ageing focus on arresting the harmful byproducts of metabolism, he says. These cause cellular damage and decay, which, in turn, accumulate to trigger the age-related disorders, such as cancer or dementia, that tend to finish us off.
For de Grey, this strategy turns anti-ageing treatment into an impossible game of Whac-A-Mole. Because we understand metabolism so poorly, our efforts to interfere with it remain crude and the process of decay races through the body far quicker than treatments to avert it can keep up.
Instead of stopping the damage, the approach that de Grey has developed at his research centre — Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), a public charity that he co-founded in 2009 — focuses on repair. This “engineering” approach is designed to keep the process of degradation below the threshold at which it turns into life-threatening disease. “If you can repair the microscopic damage then you are sidestepping the bigger problem [of prevention]”.
Assuming for a moment that some people alive today will be able to extend their lifespan to 200 years, or even 1,000 years, what would they do with such an enormity of time?
Today humans don’t really have a “life strategy”. They just live, allocating their lifetime to various activities according to what society has established. But what happens when your time extends well beyond the expectations of your society?
You may want to watch For de Grey’s TED Talk, too: A roadmap to end aging