Why is it that giant tortoises typically live for 100 years but humans in the United States are lucky to make it past 80? And why does the life of an African killifish zip past in a matter of months?
I've often mused about the variability of life spans and I figure pretty much everyone else has too. But while editing the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine's special report on time and health, "Life time: The long and short of it," I learned that serious scientists believe the limits are not set in stone.
"Ways of prolonging human life span are now within the realm of possibility," says professor of genetics Anne Brunet, PhD, in "The Time of Your Life," an article on the science of life spans. My first thought was, wow! Then I wondered if some day humans could live like the "immortal jellyfish," which reverts back to its polyp state, matures and reverts again, ad infinitum. Now that would be interesting.
Also covered in the issue:
- "Hacking the Biological Clock": An article on attempts to co-opt the body's timekeepers to treat cancer, ease jetlag and reverse learning disabilities.
- "Time Lines": A Q&A with bestselling author and physician Abraham Verghese, MD, on the timeless rituals of medicine. (The digital edition includes audio of an interview with Verghese.)
- "Tick Tock": A blow-by-blow account of the air-ambulance rescue of an injured toddler.
- "Before I Go": An essay about the nature of time from a young neurosurgeon who is now living with an advanced form of lung cancer. (The neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, MD, is featured in the video above, and our digital edition also includes audio of an interview with him.)
The issue also includes a story about the danger-fraught birth of an unusual set of triplets and an excerpt from the new biography of Nobel Prize-winning Stanford biochemist Paul Berg, PhD, describing the sticky situation he found himself in graduate school.
Previously Stanford Medicine magazine traverses the immune system, Stanford Medicine magazine opens up the world of surgery and Mysteries of the heart: Stanford Medicine magazine answers cardiovascular questions.