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Will an increase in the human lifespan reveal new diseases that we have never encountered?



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Every discovery that increases our lifespan opens a doorway onto an unexplored frontier of human health. Alzheimer’s, prion diseases, and many forms of cancer were virtually unknown before humans began living to an advanced age. Once cures are found for those diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, people may live well beyond a century. We don’t know what diseases typically strike 200-year-olds; once we begin living that long, science may expand lives even longer – once again, opening new territories in human health. Just as nature is an open-ended system, human imagination and creativity – which influence our behaviour, our environment, and thus our health – may know no bounds.

Russ Hodge, science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, answered this question.