[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address 54.197.65.227. Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
[Skip to Content Landing]
Article
October 22, 1997

Telomeres, Cancer, and AgingAltering the Human Life Span

Author Affiliations

From the Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy & Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging, University of California, Berkeley (Dr Banks); and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, East Lansing (Dr Fossel).

JAMA. 1997;278(16):1345-1348. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550160065040
Abstract

Population projections of the aging global society and its fiscal and social impact have depended on assumptions regarding the human life span. Until now, the assumption that the maximum human life span is fixed has been justified. Recent advances in cell biology, genetics, and our understanding of the cellular processes that underlie aging, however, have shown that this assumption is invalid in a number of animal models and suggest that this assumption may become invalid for humans as well. In vitro alteration of telomeres affects cellular senescence, and in vivo manipulation of genes and diet can increase maximum life span in animal models if these discoveries are extended to humans. We may soon be able to extend the maximum human life span and postpone or prevent the onset of diseases associated with aging. Such a possibility requires that we recognize a growing uncertainty in any attempt to project international health care costs into the next few decades. The costs may be significantly lower than projections, if life span increases and age-related disabilities are postponed or less severe, or perhaps higher, if life span increases without altering the onset and severity of disability. An appropriate uncertainty regarding the human life span undermines any attempt to accurately predict health costs in the next century.

×