Researchers say humanity has already reached the upper
limit for longevity, which sits at about 115 years.
Many scientists run mathematical models predicting
leaps in the lifespan of humans without considering biological
and environmental factors.
There’s a limit to the human lifespan and physical abilities, and
a multidisciplinary team of researchers say that we may have
already reached this threshold. Sadly, it’s one that we may not
be able to exceed. Indeed, signs point to a plateau in maximum
genetic and biological limits for a person’s age, height, and
This first-of-its-kind study, that covers over 120 years worth of
historical information, was published recently in the
journal Frontiers in Physiology.
Instead of breaking through this threshold, there would be a
shift in the proportion of people reaching the current threshold.
In short, more people would be hitting the highest life
expectancy but not exceeding it.
“[M]odern human potential, including an enlarged brain, adult
height, lifespan, and physical performance, has been dependent on
very long-term evolutionary parameters,” researchers
Jean-François Toussaint and Adrien Marck from the Paris Descartes University in France
Furthermore, when combined with anthropogenic factors — or our
effect on the environment — this threshold might even see
decrease. “All human biomarkers (renal filtration, respiratory
rate, lifespan, etc) depend on both genetic predispositions and
environmental parameters, with risk factors possibly limiting the
function/performance of each studied organ/organism,” Toussaint
and Marck explained. “A positive environment further favors
functional quality, while increased constraints limit it.”
The limits of longevity must take into account biology
The new study is hardly the first to conclude that humankind has
reached its limits, particularly when it comes to lifespan.
Earlier in September, researchers from the Netherlands
published a study that pegged the maximum
human age limit to 115 years.
Toussaint and Marck are aware of efforts to prolong human life.
They actually group these projects into two kinds, those that
work to prolong our “healthy time” and those that seek to simply
extend human lifespan. They praise the former, but they aren’t
too keen on the latter. Researchers involved in the prolonging
healthy life, they explained, are already aware of the genetic
constraints presented in their study.
“However, if we consider the community that supports the idea
that, in the near future, humans may live 200 years, 500 years or
more, it is easy to show that these persons usually perform
mathematical projections without any biological and environmental
considerations,” they told Futurism. “They also have
reductionist approaches that don’t take into account either the
complexity of the interactions between individuals and their
environment, or the multi-level interactions.”
Potential genetic solutions to complex problems
Despite this, though, longevity research have been
showing quite favorable results. Admittedly, a number of these
are still in their early stages. However, another idea that’s
potentially worth exploring is the use of gene editing tools to
clip the factors that trigger aging,
such as certain genetic mutations.
Toussaint and Marck had this to say about it: “Many people dream
about the new possibilities offered by gene-editing techniques
such as CRISPR/Cas9. These, however, raise a lot of biological
and ethical questions. Can we really improve such technology to
prevent the present side effects and really edit or safely drive
our biological systems?”
“Even if we progress in editing reliability, it will still be
complicated to use CRISPR/Cas9 without short-term or remote
effects linked to these aspects. And long-term effects are only
known…after the long term,” they added.
“Finally, despite all technological evolutions [sic], the plateau
dilemma still remains as the rules of the living will continue to
prevail. New organisms of a new species (Homo sapiens 3.0? 4.0?
0.0?) will maintain limits in terms of height, longevity or
physical performances – maybe at a higher level — but they will
unquestionably peak. Trees don’t reach the sky.”
This might leave the reader’s sense of utopic progress to
everlasting life, brought to us by science, downtrodden and lost
to puerile fantasy, but he or she can still take solace in the
potential of humanity’s future maturation. In other words, we
might get our act together enough to improve limits implied by
our degenerating environment.
In the same way that environmental factors have contributed to
setting humanity’s limit, these could also push that limit
further. “Are we able to reverse such a process and how?
Obviously, it will take some time when we look at what is at
stake and what has already been done which cannot be easily
reversed,” Toussaint and Marck explained
to Futurism. “If we consider the time scales just for
CO2, and the changes it produces to global heat or the sea level,
these impacts will last for millennia.”
And the two go on: “If we remain optimistic and consider that it
is still possible to reverse the major deleterious effects of
human anthropogenic activities (climate and all others), there is
no reason to believe that average lifespan or any activity index
may not increase again until they reach another plateau at their
highest potential value,” they added.