I read a slightly disconcerting story the other day. It was a sort of medical/scientific story about how some people in white coats and with letters after their names were confidently predicting that the human being would, and in not-too-distant a future, begin living easily past the age of 100, while hosting a 200th birthday party may not be out of the question in time.

And (it gets worse, or better depending on which way you see longevity) there is the very real prospect that even further down the track humans may begin reaching the age of 400.

Not even a turtle gets that sort of stint and I would have to say that if the day comes when a human being does make 400 (and gets four "best wishes" telegrams from the Queen) then that recipient will arguably look a whole lot more like a turtle than a turtle.

But hey, they reckon blokes like Noah and Moses apparently lived to that sort of age and more ... and Charlton Heston didn't look too shabby in The Ten Commandments, so who knows what can be achieved - outside of Hollywood.


What is targeted to be achieved, in terms of increased longevity, is being formulated not in film studios but in laboratories. It is the white-coat, breathing-mask, latex-glove brigade who are pursuing eternal youth.

Mmmm, I was just musing on that "eternal" note and figure that if I had been able to find some remarkable elixir and was able to pursue eternal youth and spent not seven years of teenagehood but 21 or 28 years of it, I don't think I would be in fit shape, or indeed here at all, to celebrate my 311th birthday.

This ability to extend the lifespan of a human being to about five times what normal and natural biology generally gives it will come down to playing around with that old foe called "genetics".

It is a common sort of theme and you'll almost certainly hear it spoken of in conversations centred around the remarkable fact that Rolling Stone Keith Richards is still alive.

"Comes down to having good genes," someone will suggest, and it's hard to argue with that - specially in Keith's case.

So of course the tweaking and adjustment of genes is a sure-fire way of altering a human being and such research is a major part of the white-coat world. It is genes which have the anti-ageing bods excited.

There is even an institute of "age research" in California (where else?) where genetics take pride of place in the search to smooth out the ageing process and eventually extend it and, if they do, blame the worms.

Yep, researchers played with and altered two "genetic pathways" in lab worms called Caenorhabditis elegans, and as a result boosted the lifespan of the unsuspecting creatures by a factor of five. I wonder how the worms felt about that, given they are not exactly creatures which have full and varied lives and who spend the passing days encased in dirt and completely in the dark.


It got the researchers excited because they had mutated the "genetic pathways" and created a dramatic increase in lifespan, albeit for a worm. So, of course they declared there was now a "possibility" that human lives, through genetic mutating, could accordingly be extended multi-fold.

In the wake of such reports, some within the scientific set made even more dramatic declarations - that one day the mysterious and magical secret ingredient of ageing will be uncovered and conquered so that a human being could then, effectively, live forever. That would be an interesting concept as the world would become over-populated and eventually swollen and packed to the gunwhales with a human race aged just 24.

The old-age home industry and the plastic surgery trade would be shot to shreds. There would be no one to help across the roads. Winston Peters would be left with suitcases full of Gold Cards. The term "oh, grow up" would become extinct.

If humans were to keep appearing but refusing to "leave", then the world would become the equivalent of trying to shove 14 people into a Fiat Bambina: we'd have to head for something a lot larger, like a Ford Transit.

Wonder if that's why the science chaps are now furiously studying Jupiter?

Only a silly old fool would come up with that scenario and that's the way I want to be and continue to evolve further into - but not for another 340 years. I'll happily settle for the natural and untainted genetics I was given and the time they will give me, although a telegram from the palace of Buckingham would be grand.

- Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke's Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.