Cryonics: Staying Alive a Little Longer

Would you freeze yourself to the future?

ByABC News
March 25, 2008, 11:30 AM

— -- For centuries explorers from Ponce de Leon to the pirates of the Caribbean have set out in search of the fountain of youth and secrets to immortality.

Today, extending human life well beyond 100 years is closer than ever and there is a good chance you'll be able to experience it firsthand.

Aubrey de Grey is a respected, yet controversial, expert on the biology of aging who developed his theories at Cambridge University in England. He believes age-related diseases will soon be eliminated altogether, stopping aging in its tracks.

"What's likely to happen within the next 20 to 25, 30 years, we will develop technology that will buy a bit of time," he said. "We will develop rejuvenation technology that can be applied to people that are already middle-age and keep them middle-age, or less so to speak, for another 20 or 30 years. During that 20 or 30 years, the technology will be further advanced to give them another, let's say, 15 years, and so on. "

De Grey says that once scientists develop the solutions to defeating aging, the human life span could increase exponentially.

"I think people would live to about 1,000 years in that circumstance, on average. Some people would live less. Some people would live a lot more."

His ideas may be radical but even conventional scientists such as renowned gerontologist Robert N. Butler believe a baby born today could live to be 150 years old.

Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Why Survive? Being Old in America " and consults in Manhattan.

"It is certainly conceivable," Butler said. "We now are very poised to be able to manipulate and slow the aging process, so it could happen."

De Grey says the focus of his work is to find cures for the illnesses that on-set as you get older, such as Alzheimer's, type II diabetes or atherosclerosis.

"I'm not so much interested in giving people the chance to live a very long time because nobody really knows they want to live a very long time until we try it."

In case his research isn't far enough along before his time runs out, de Grey has signed up to be cryogenically preserved.