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永生值得吗?

剑桥—人类一直在寻找长生不老药,因此,即使不是科学家也紧密跟踪最新衰老研究也就不足为奇了。但大部分认为只是一个简单的生命事实的东西,真的是一种可以治愈的“疾病”吗?还是说,人体寿命存在一个不可逾越的极限?

当然,几乎所有人都想要健康地延续生命,一些科学家在探索以越来越极端的方式实现这一目标。但如果我们只能凭借极端手段的帮助活着,那么很多人会宁愿选择无法治愈,只能减轻痛苦的治疗。我们可能还会十分坦然地接受“安乐死”,如果我们的生活质量和预后落到一定程度以下的话。此外,受命预期的大幅增长可能给整体社会带来影响深远的不良后果。

许多严肃的衰老研究开始关注叫做端粒的DNA延长体,它会随着人体变老而缩短。比如,科学家通过调整线虫的端粒,成功将这种生物的寿命延长了十倍,尽管对于更加复杂的动物,这种方法并不那么有效。延长老鼠寿命的唯一有效方法是让它们食不果腹。但裸滨鼠或许给了我们一些特殊的生物学教训;一些裸滨鼠活了30多年——是其他小型哺乳类动物的好几倍。

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