Everyday, new advances in medical science allow doctors to cure patients of seemingly fatal heart failure, cancer and infections. But there is one affliction that modern medicine has yet to cure. It's an affliction we are all born with, one that at some point we will all succumb to. Nobody can escape it. It's an inevitability. As certain as day and night. And yet, it seems we as a species are approaching a time when death may no longer haunt us.
Seeking immortality is nothing new. Our ancestors have long feared the unknown represented by death, and in that void of knowledge, came up with their own ways of coping with our limited mortal coil.
The ancient Greeks thought that if a person achieved great things in their life, that they would achieve some sort of immortality by perhaps joining the ranks of the gods or by being placed among the stars.
Egyptians sought life everlasting by preserving not only the body but also the bits and pieces of their everyday lives in massive tombs designed to withstand the test of time and to provide for their eternal life after death.
Still in modern times we turn to religion for life ever lasting. Heaven awaits devout Christians and Muslims and reincarnation for Hindus and Buddhists
However in the 21st century, mankind might actually be able to fulfill the age old dream of immortality.
Science has already greatly extended the life spans of those of us lucky enough to live in wealthy countries. We have access to great nutrition, clean water, and medical care - things brought about by modern science that our ancestors could scarcely understand. Our grandparents can easily live into their 80s and our parents might expect to live into their 90s or even 100s. What about those of us who are 40 and under now? Or those being born right at this moment. How long will they live?
The answer some scientists now say, is nearly infinite, barring asteroid collisions with earth, lightning strikes, car accidents and gun shot wounds. It may be possible for human beings alive now to live upwards of 500 years based on the current projection of our scientific nohow.
How is this possible?
It's all about combating the daily wear and tear our bodies take. After years on this planet, our bodies suffer huge amounts of damage from everything from free radicals, sunlight, radiation and the occasionally broken bone. Eventually our bodies break down to such a degree that we cease to function. But with new genetic technology and understanding, we are starting to see that this can be reversed. The secret is locked away in our genes.
Research has shown that certain species of animals can live extremely long lives. The Galapagos tortoise is one such example. In the wild these tortoises have a life expectancy of 100 to 150 years.
More recently, a species of Jellyfish was discovered that actually has the ability to not just put off aging but actually completely reverse it. The Turritopsis Nutricula jellyfish reverts back to a juvenile state after it reproduces and so far scientists think that it is capable of doing this indefinitely.
If science can fully understand the genetic and cellular mechanisms that work to make these species long lived, perhaps in the future you and I may find ourselves still here 1000 plus years now.
This will actually be the easy part. The difficult part for the human race will be coming to terms with the fact that the specter of death will no longer haunt our species. As of now, the implications seem to be as frightening and as unknown as death itself.