For thousands of years, humans have dreamed of finding the secrets to long life, even immortality. Until now, the dream has been elusive. But scientists and doctors are beginning to understand the fundamental mechanisms that cause the human body to grow, and to deteriorate. Will we one day clone ourselves? Or will we simply inject ourselves with hormones that keep us permanently spry?
CBS News 48 Hours takes a look at some modern attempts to sidestep death. Some will amaze you, others may cause you to scratch your head in wonder.
Among the hopeful souls you'll meet:
- Michael West, head of a company trying to make old human cells young again with a technique similar to cloning. Called nuclear transfer, this technique, West says, may eventually provide a supply of perfectly matched human tissues for organ transplants. This potentially unlimited supply of new, genetically matched cells would allow doctors to avoid the controversial use of fetal tissue and human eggs.
- Rev. Kevin Wildes of Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute for Ethics, who worries that nuclear transfer could lead to outrageous abuses. Father Wildes also fears that the new techniques are not being properly regulated.
- Dr. Alan Mintz, a former radiologist who's founded an anti-aging center. His recommended regimen includes doses of human growth hormone, which some doctors say can be harmful.
Brian Delaney, a 36-year-old Ph.D. student in Oregon who, after reading about a low calorie diet that radically extended the lives of mice, decided to try it himself. He eats two small meals a day - lots of kale, lots of fruit and vegetables. Is it worth it? "If I can wring a few more decades out of existence," says Delaney, "and have more time to write music and understand Plato, it's worth it."Brian Delaney
- Ben Levinson, who is 104. Last year, he took up shotputting. He works out, drives on his own, and goes on dates with a younger woman (she's 86). What's his secret? No spicy food, he says.
- Mark Muhlestein, a Silicon Valley computer programmer who has signed up to be frozen when he dies, in the hope that one day scienc will find a way to revive him. Muhlestein, whose wife and two teenage sons have also signed up, is one of about 1000 Americans who are signed up to be "cryonically" preserved. While some researchers say that the freezing won't help them be brought back from the dead, the Muhlesteins are willing to take the chance.
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produced by David Kohn