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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A cure for aging on the horizon????

I walked into the ER to do an EKG on a patient who looked like he wasn't a day over 60. Then, as I was typing my information into my EKG machine, I had to do a double take when I typed in his age: 99.

I looked at the patient, at the age on the sheet, back at the patient. Wow!

Of course, we know by now that a patient who takes care of himself and does not smoke looks a heck of a lot younger than the patient who smokes and over eats -- which would include the majority of our patients.

Later in the night I had a patient who was 95, and full of secretions. She looked all of 90. She was way overweight, and her skin was paper thin. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and sepsis, and was admitted to the med/surg floor.

"And of course she was ordered on breathing treatments," I said to a co-worker, "That treatment sure is going to help that rhonchi."

My co-worker said, "I think when someone is over 95 we should just let them stay at home and let nature take its course. I don't want to sound inhumane or anything, but I certainly don't want to live that long."

That got me to thinking. The person I was talking to was 38, the same age as me. So, when she is 95, it will be the year 2065. By 2065, technology may have improved to the point where the average lifespan is 150. Thus, my co-worker might just have to eat her words.

So I said, "You better watch what you say."

That in mind, I reminded her of an article I read recently. That, by the year 2030, scientist will have a cure for aging. And, whatever age you are in 2030, you will be that age forever. If you are 30, you will be 30 forever. And if you are 60, of which I will be, you will be 60 forever -- barring a tragedy.

Of course if you are born after 2030, you will age until you are 20 or so, and then you will be 20 forever. How many women would love that. Guys might not, because they tend to appear wiser as they age. But who cares what guys want.

What the article mentioned is that every disease you will ever get in your lifetime is in your DNA the day you are born. And, during the course of your life, if those genes are triggered, you get the disease. If your genes are not triggered, you do not get the disease.

And, as we age, we increase the likelihood you will trigger these "disease" genes. So, if we can stop the aging process, we can prevent people from getting diseases, and they will live forever (barring a fluke, a new disease, or a trauma).

I'm talking about hereditary diseases here, not those acquired by other means, such as the flu, AIDS, colds, etc. But the idea here if we have genetic diseases, and aging, under control, so to would we have these diseases controlled as well.

Here's what I think about this. If I'm 60 when this is invented, I will be among the wisest looking people on the planet. In the year 3070 I will be able to tell my great,great, great, great grandchildren what life was like in the 1980s.

Not only will I look wiser, as I will actually be still only 60 while 90% of the rest of the people will look 20, I will be among the few alive with memories of the 1900s.

So, if this new gene is invented, would that mean that we asthmatics can smoke to our hearts content without worrying about developing COPD? Or cancer?

I suppose if this scenario did happen, I would have to find another career to work the rest of my millennium of a life, because there might not be a need for hospitals.

This might pose a dilemma for all the patients who are already chronically ill, extremely old, and near death. Or, will an equally brilliant discovery be able to reverse aging? Aha, wouldn't that be great. So there might be a chance for me looking 20 again after all, or all of us for that matter.

Of course there might be a need for RTs for a while, as doctors allow nature to take its course for these folks. Be a neat idea for a book anyway.

I suppose it might be sadder for some of us who already lost our parents to aging, so we'd be a rare breed to only have known our parents, or grand parents, a short time. If one of us loses a spouse before 2030, we would be a rare breed to have to go through forever alone.

And what about Heaven. Some of us might get tired of life at some point, say after 300 years, and want to go to Heaven.

So will there be a cap on life.

And what about world population? Right now there are so few people in the world that if you took every person, you could fit them all into the state of Texas. What would happen if nobody ever died? Of course politicians in Washington would be happy, because there'd be plenty of taxpayers.

On another note, it says right in the Bible that no person, after Noah and his family, will ever live past 120 years. So I suppose you'd have some philosophers debating the Bible.

If people lived forever, the Bible might actually be of more use, as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison once discussed, God is needed to maintain order in society. Or, to state it another way, fear of the Devil is needed to encourage kids to be good to one another.

Currently, we spend our entire lives acquiring knowledge and possessions, and by the time we are old enough to appreciate these things we start to age, and then nature takes its course.

After this discovery, all people will be able to keep their knowledge forever. Right now, we see a lot of times mistakes of the past are repeated, mainly because the people who experienced the mistakes of long ago are now deceased.

So, there is one thing I can say for sure: we'd be a wiser nation/world.

Since people no longer die, wisdom of our fathers will not be forgotten, because our fathers will still be alive to share that wisdom.

And that is the thought of the day.

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