Monday, April 09, 2007

Living Longer


Here is an entertaining story "Human Life Span Getting Longer" published recently by The Korea Times (South Korea), which cites and discusses our research findings and ides.
Any comments and suggestions are welcome!

Human Life Span Getting Longer

By Park Kyu-tae

The first of five oriental blessings is living a longer and healthy life. This is a perpetual human dream. It is merely a legendary man “Dongbansak” lived for one hundred eighty thousands years in a Chinese transcript in the Western Han Dynasty written up just about BC 100. But judging from scientific knowledge at hand it is a hyperbole making a mountain out of a molehill. The longest average life span is 82 years and contrary the shortest is less than 40, according to World Health Report 2006. It seems the longest human life is more or less 120 years and it is general views among scientists now. In fact, French lady, Jeanne Louise Calment (1875–1997), lived 122 years in the most recent.

However, Hunza Valley in Pakistan, Vilcabamba of Ecuador and Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains are well recognized as the three places of longevity in the world having all natural advantages for human living. In this respect, it is known more than 130 years of age are known quite common in the regions but it is not quite scientifically verified. It is, nevertheless, interesting to read the Genesis; “Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, he lived 969 years.”

Prof. Park Sang-chul, Seoul National University working on Korean macrobiotic studies observed the provinces in the vicinity of Mt. Jiri have numerous centenarians enjoying clear-cut four seasons, excellent herbal supplements and taking pleasure having foods three times a day. Gratification of life, collaboration with friends and taking part in community activities are the rule of thumb for healthy life. Innumerable researches have been conducted for human aging. The research on life science is not set limits to the genetics and gerontology but the entire sciences are taking part in this field. In view of that the average life span is nearly doubled up in last five decades or so and still making steps forward. However, it gives the impression those are still our passive enthusiasm to extend longer human life.

In support of more powerful way, Dr. Leonid Gavrilov, University of Chicago, one of the world's leading experts in longevity studies published in 2004 and also recently, “Engineering's reliability theory for human life” in Spectrum, and “Predictors of human longevity” in North American Actuarial Journal 2007 insist “If only we could maintain our body functions as they are at age 10, we could expect to live about 5000 years on average. Unfortunately, from age 11 on, it's all downhill!” And it goes on “In this view, we can be further improved through genetic engineering and be better maintained through preventive, regenerative, and anti-aging medicine and by repairing and replacing worn-out body parts. In short, the rate at which we fall apart could be decreased, maybe even to a negligible level.” It advocates we might live everlastingly and realize the human immortality to eternal life.

With reference to the topics, it is appealing to see a recent article “What if humans were built to last?” on the re-engineering humans in The Scientist magazine. Inviting experts in each part of the body, they comment on the fixes for the fractions that break down as we age. Their accounts are pros and cons on the issues for the ever-lasting life as it is matter of religion and dominion of God. However, most of them agree the research on life sciences should go on.

Winston Churchill once said he would paint pictures in first million years in the next world, in contrast a reputed Korean leader made remarks on it he would rather play golf for the time slot. Suppose in the immortal world, painting and golfing for million years and angling for next millions so on they could be deadly tired. Recollecting a movie “Switch” released quite some time back, though the man was allowed the immortality of soul by God but he desperately had chosen to die as he was so sick and tired of ever stretched life.

Only humans might feel their life spans are too short to achieve what they have yearnings and deploring the aging. Living in a finite world, thinking of infinitive or eternity is still a long way to go with still dull human brains.

The writer is professor emeritus at Yonsei University and a Korea Times columnist.

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The Korea Times welcomes our readers' contributions to Letters to the Editor and Thoughts of The Times. The article should be preferably submitted by e-mail to and not exceed 900 words. _ ED.
03-26-2007 16:29


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