Anyone who reaches the ripe old age of 100 (and beyond) can consider himself/herself lucky. This seems rational because according to the Gompertz mortality law — a scientific model that calculates human mortality rate — death depends on specific factors that cannot be altered. But, if the results of a recent study done by a team of scientists from biotech firm Gero are to be believed, what we have long accepted as logical might turn out to be a misconception after all.
The Gompertz mortality law makes use of what’s referred to as Strehler-Mildvan (SM) correlation to quantify mortality. Supposedly, mortality can be calculated by adding two factors — Mortality Rate Doubling Time (MRDT) and Initial Mortality Rate (IMR) — both of which unavoidably increase at an accelerated rate as one ages.
The Strehler-Mildvan (SM) correlation was popularized in the 60s through a paper published in the journal Science. It basically says that attempting to extend life at a young age has the opposite effect — it shortens rather than extends a person’s lifetime. More specifically, trying to reduce the mortality rate of a young person through any form of intervention will only result in making that person age faster. Which also suggests that developing anti-aging treatments or therapy for the young may in fact be counterproductive — an idea that’s troublesome, to say the least, for anybody who’s into anti-aging research.
The Gero team led by Dr. Peter Fedichev scrutinized this correlation by making use of a scientific approach rather than machine learning techniques. In other words, they tried to figure out what physical and biological processes were behind the SM correlation. As it turned out, the team found a fundamental conflict between analytical considerations and the possibility of SM correlation.
As Dr. Fedichev said in a statement they released: “We worked through the entire life histories of thousands of C.elegans that were genetically identical, and the results showed that this correlation was indeed a pure fitting artifact.” Which simply means that the SM correlation has no biological basis, and anti-aging researchers can heave a big sigh of relief. Why? If the results of the study had gone the other way – confirming the validity of the SM correlation instead of showing that mortality does not really depend on the Gompertz parameters – it might have triggered movements to put a ban on anti-aging and human life extension initiatives.
Ironically, because of what the study disproved, scientists in this line of research will probably be more determined than ever to pursue their endeavours. There’s nothing more motivating than knowing that anti-aging therapies can truly be beneficial and not detrimental. Even better, it presents the possibility that extending human life is feasible.
The details of the research are now available through the Journal of Theoretical Biology.