DNA Explainer: Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk - How billionaires are trying to achieve immortality

The world's richest people are funding companies that are attempting to undertake projects ranging from extending lifespans to achieving immortality.


DNA Explainer: Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk: How billionaires are trying to achieve immortality

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DNA webdesk

Updated: Sep 14, 2021, 08:28 AM IST

Getting old and dying is inevitable. But some of the richest in the world see them as a problem that millions of dollars and cutting-edge research may be able to solve. A number of the uber rich of the world have been investing hopefully in the domain. They see this as similar to other landmark human feats like the internet, which changed the face of the Earth.

Now, there are companies attempting to undertake projects ranging from extending lifespans to age reversal. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the latest to join the bandwagon.

Bezos is only the latest

Perched on top of the global rich list, Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has put millions of his dollars into an age reversal startup called Altos Labs. Similarly, Google has invested around a billion dollars in a company known as Calico. Oracle’s billionaire finder Larry Ellison is another billionaire who has invested major money in research on anti-ageing.

But while there is big money involved, neither is the zeal new nor is research on anti-ageing near a solution.

But despite the experimental nature of such research, a number of breakthroughs have been achieved in the human attempt to champion immortality.

Originating out of a science conference in Palo Alto, California, Altos Labs has some of the most brilliant and handsomely paid scientists on its rolls. They have undertaken research to study if animal cells can be made to revive themselves through cellular level changes. If successful, the natural next step would be to see if such an action can be triggers in the entire body and not just individual cells.

While this is one of the methods in experiment currently, scientists are trying to beat death through a number of other approaches.

Age reversal - What is it and how does it work?

As per Sergey Young, a longevity investor, there have been advancements which span across “cell, tissue, organ, organ system and organism,” which he says are the “5 major levels of biological organisation.”

On the other hand, Bezos-backed Altos Labs is into a technique called cell reprogramming.

In the context of cells, which Young describes as the “simplest level of organisation in a living organism”, ageing can be described as the “accumulation of destructive changes” which result from changes to gene expression. This change is what makes our skin wrinkle, teeth and bones weak and hair to fall as we get old.

Regeneration technology

This kind of research is looking to regenerate tissues, which are made up of a group of cells responsible for a common function of the body. Natural deaths result from disease in one or more organs. Hence, this approach focuses on restoring diseases parts to ensure a longer life. While this is similar to transplant procedures, tissue regeneration will surely be a breakthrough. 

The brain-computer interface

Next billionaire with a novel idea mimicking immortality is Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk’s brain research company Neuralink is working on the “brain-computer interface" that will focus on helping patients with disabilities or with mental disorders like dementia or Parkinson’s, that are related to aging.

Another big field of research is gene-editing, a technological advancement that has the potential to beat the worst diseases.