Scientists have calculated the maximum human longevity and suggest there may be ways to increase it. Credit: Jumpstory

Scientists a Step Closer to Braking Human Longevity Limit—10 Important Things to Consider

According to scientists, the maximum human life span is 120-150 years.

A group of gerontologists, who built a model of age-related changes based on different indicators of human health, have concluded that the maximum human longevity can be 120-150 years. After this, according to their calculation, stabilization will become completely impossible – unless, they notice, new anti-aging drugs appear.


The record holder for human longevity is officially considered the Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who, according to the documents, died at 122 years old. Many gerontologists are alarmed that this record is already almost 25 years old, during which no one has managed to break it. And this could be expected, given that the average life expectancy both in the world as a whole and in developed countries does not stop growing.

There are many ways to explain why no one managed to surpass Jeanne Calment. Someone is building conspiracy theories according to which her documents are fake, and in fact, there was no record. Other researchers suspect that there is an absolute maximum for human life, a “ceiling” that Calment has approached and which no one can break through.

They indicate, among other things, that the maximum human longevity (that is, the magnitude of records) is growing much more slowly than the average, and seems to be reaching a plateau. Finally, the representatives of the third point of view do not share

This pessimism is attributed to the lack of records on the vicissitudes of statistics: there are too few super-longevity, and random “outliers” from the general pattern are too rare to fit into a harmonious curve.

10 Important things to consider about the maximum human longevity

1. Background

A group of scientists of Russian origin from Singapore, Russia, and the United States, led by Peter Fedichev, tried to approach the problem from a different angle. Instead of looking at the maximum life span of modern humans, the researchers tried to estimate the rate of their aging and calculate by what point a person’s “shelf life” should expire anyway.

2. Biological Marker of Aging

They chose Complete Blood Counts (CBC) as a biological marker of aging, a simple sign that is measured every time a person donates blood for analysis.

Collecting data on 471,473 people from the British database (UK Biobank) and 72,925 participants in the American long-term study (NHANES), the authors of the work applied the method of analysis of principle components to them.

As a result, they received three components – the ratio of the concentration of uniform elements – and combined them into a dynamic organism state indicator (DOSI).

3. Tests

To test that a new biomarker – DOSI – really reflects the rate of aging, the researchers tested how it changes with age. It turned out that the DOSI value grows from birth and 20 years, a plateau period passes, and after 50 years it starts to grow again.

A - the method of analysis of principal components as applied to blood analysis and the aging trajectory built on the basis of the resulting model. B - the change in the DOSI index in more "fragile" Americans (red dotted line) and Americans in general (red solid line) in comparison with weight (blue dots) and predictions arising from the theory of growth and development (blue italics). C is the distribution of DOSI in the population; the older the cohort, the more people in it with strong deviations from the mean. Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021
A – the method of analysis of principal components as applied to blood analysis and the aging trajectory built on the basis of the resulting model. B – the change in the DOSI index in more “fragile” Americans (red dotted line) and Americans in general (red solid line) in comparison with weight (blue dots) and predictions arising from the theory of growth and development (blue italics). C is the distribution of DOSI in the population; the older the cohort, the more people in it with strong deviations from the mean. Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021


4. What if you are a smoker?

Among smokers, in turn, DOSI was on average higher than among those who have never smoked or have already quit. All this, concluded by the authors of the work, shows that the parameter deduced by them is suitable for the role of a marker of aging.

5. DOSI and life span 

They then measured how DOSI changes over the course of a specific person’s life span. The authors of the work proceeded from the fact that the human body can be considered as an ecosystem and its stability can be assessed.

Since human health and longevity can fluctuate greatly throughout life – depending on illness, stress, or changes in external conditions – the researchers suggested that it is not the value of the marker itself that is important, but the speed with which it returns to a stable value.

6. DOSI oscillations

To assess how this rate changes with age, the researchers took another set of data into their work – the results of analyzes of 141 men and 266 women who were relatively healthy and donated blood at the Russian laboratory InVitro at least 10-20 times in three years. It turned out that the time it takes for DOSI oscillations to fade increases with age.

7. Difficulties of old age

Thus, the older a person becomes, the more difficult it is for his body to stabilize after exposure to external or internal stress. It can be assumed that sooner or later the body will completely lose the ability to return to a state of balance, thus there is a certain point that can be accepted as the maximum human longevity.

Extrapolating their data (there were no people over 90 years old in the sample), scientists got a threshold of 120 years – after which the balance is not restored.

8. New Parameters

The authors of the work tried to repeat their calculations with another parameter – the level of physical activity, which they estimated from the data of fitness trackers in 3,032 women and 1,783 men. The trend turned out exactly the same – with the only difference that the maximum life expectancy fell on 150 years.

The rate of relaxation (return to a stable state) depending on the age. The red line is the prediction based on blood tests, the blue line is based on measurements of physical activity. Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021
The rate of relaxation (return to a stable state) depending on the age. The red line is the prediction based on blood tests, the blue line is based on measurements of physical activity. Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021

9. Calculations

Based on their calculations, the researchers formulated their vision of aging. They proposed to consider the space of states of the organism as a plane with two basins of attraction (that is, sets of states where the organism seeks to come).

One pool is healthy, the other is unstable. The pools are separated by a barrier (analogous to the activation energy in chemical reactions), which prevents the body from immediately sliding from the first to the second.

10. Impact of stress

Each stress (illness, change in conditions) causes fluctuations in the state of health, which fade inside the first pool – until they are too strong to transfer the body to the next pool, where the fluctuations no longer attenuate but bring it closer to death.

Aging in this model is the reduction of the barrier between two pools. The more time passes, the easier it is to transfer the body from a state that is easy to stabilize to a state that cannot be stabilized.

Age-related change model. A - stable state pool, B - barrier, C - unstable state pool. Black lines are life trajectories of two random people. White line (D) - barrier decline trajectory (aging). Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021
Age-related change model. A – stable state pool, B – barrier, C – unstable state pool. Black lines are life trajectories of two random people. White line (D) – barrier decline trajectory (aging). Credit: Pyrkov et al. / Nature Communications, 2021

Conclusions from the study

The authors draw two important conclusions from this definition. The first is that modern drugs that are now used to fight age-related diseases (for example, anti-inflammatory drugs) will act differently depending on age.

They will not have a noticeable effect on relatively young people (since the fluctuations in their condition fade away quickly), but will only temporarily postpone more serious health problems. And for the elderly, such drugs should work better and significantly prolong their life.

At the same time, the second conclusion of the researchers is that such drugs will not allow breaking through the “ceiling” in 120-150 years, since they act only on the amplitude of oscillations.

To talk about a radical extension of human longevity, the authors of the article conclude, other drugs are needed – which will act on the “root” of aging, that is, reducing the barrier between stabilized and unstabilized states.

What kind of drugs these might be, the authors do not report – they only emphasize that their research does not allow to draw a conclusion about what physiological processes provide this barrier.

On the other hand, in the penultimate sentence of the article, the authors indicate meaningfully that they do not know “any laws of nature” that make it impossible to create such drugs.


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Sources:

EurekAlert! (n.d.). Gero scientists found a way to break the limit of human longevity.
O’Neill, M. (2021, May 25). Scientists Have Found a Way to Break the Limit of Human Longevity. SciTechDaily.
Pyrkov, T. V., Avchaciov, K., Tarkhov, A. E., Menshikov, L. I., Gudkov, A. V., & Fedichev, P. O. (2021, May 25). Longitudinal analysis of blood markers reveals progressive loss of resilience and predicts human lifespan limit. Nature News.
Willingham, E. (2021, May 25). The Maximum Human Life Span Is 150 Years, New Research Estimates. Scientific American.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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