Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

University Of Illinois At Chicago Expert Tinkers With Evolution To Create Human "Built-To-Last"

Date:
February 13, 2001
Source:
University Of Illinois At Chicago
Summary:
If humans were designed to live beyond age 100 and remain free of many of the diseases and disorders associated with aging, we might have looked like short, stout elves. This conclusion may be drawn from illustrations that accompany the article, “If Humans Were Built to Last,” by UIC Professor S. Jay Olshansky and his colleagues in the March 2001 issue of the magazine Scientific American.

If humans were designed to live beyond age 100 and remain free of many of the diseases and disorders associated with aging, we might have looked like short, stout elves.

Related Articles


This conclusion may be drawn from illustrations that accompany the article, “If Humans Were Built to Last,” by UIC Professor S. Jay Olshansky and his colleagues in the March 2001 issue of the magazine Scientific American.

Our bodies evolved to survive long enough to reproduce and raise our young, says Olshansky, professor of biostatistics in the UIC School of Public Health and noted demographer of aging. Human ingenuity has made it possible for us to extend our lives well past our reproductive years.

“Had our bodies been crafted for extended operation, we would have fewer flaws capable of making us miserable in our later days,” he writes. “Evolution does not work that way. Instead, it cobbles together new features by tinkering with existing ones in a way that would have made Rube Goldberg proud.”

The article, written with Bruce Carnes, senior research scientist at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York City, outlines design “flaws” that lead to bodily malfunctions as we age, and the hypothetical, evolutionary design “fixes” that would allow us to enjoy good health well into our postreproductive years.

“Humans can live for a long period of time in good health because the harsh environments of our ancestors forged a human-body design that is robust,” said Carnes. “But the seeds of self-destruction sown at conception become more obvious with the passage of time.”

The article includes illustrations of what humans might look like if we were designed for health and longevity. For example, some of the extended-use features might include rewired eyes, bigger ears that are mobile, a curved neck, forward-tilting upper torso, extra-padded joints, larger bones and muscles, shorter limbs and stature and backward-bending knees.

Walking upright probably contributed to human intelligence and an expanded foraging range, the authors note, but at the price of aging-related disorders, including slipped disks, lower back pain, varicose veins and worn-out joints.

Where our heads are concerned, the authors cite the weak link between the optic nerve and retina, which is prone to detaching after decades of use, fragile hair cells in our ears leading to hearing loss, and a common passageway for food and air, raising the risk of inhaling food or drink as muscle tone decreases with age.

Then, there are what the authors refer to as “plumbing problems.” In males, these problems include a urethra prone to constriction by an enlarged prostate that may obstruct the flow of urine, and in females, bladder and pelvic-floor muscles and ligaments that weaken with time and multiple pregnancies, which may lead to incontinence.

Emphasizing the positive message of the article, Butler observes, “Despite the limitations and flaws about which we write, there is so much power we as individuals have to maintain our health. Through good health habits and modern medical interventions, we have an opportunity to, as the Greek lyric poet Pindar said, exhaust the limits of the possible.”

Olshansky and his colleagues contributed to the development of a paradigm for understanding mortality known as biodemography. This approach to human aging and longevity, as well as age patterns of death across species draws on the disciplines of demography, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology and anthropology.

Olshansky is the author with Carnes of the new book, “The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging,” published by Norton.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Illinois At Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Illinois At Chicago. "University Of Illinois At Chicago Expert Tinkers With Evolution To Create Human "Built-To-Last"." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010213071023.htm>.
University Of Illinois At Chicago. (2001, February 13). University Of Illinois At Chicago Expert Tinkers With Evolution To Create Human "Built-To-Last". ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010213071023.htm
University Of Illinois At Chicago. "University Of Illinois At Chicago Expert Tinkers With Evolution To Create Human "Built-To-Last"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010213071023.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins