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如果可以长生不老,你愿意吗?

  SINCE 1900,the life expectancy of Americans has jumped to just shy of 80 from 47 years.This surge comes mostly from improved hygiene and nutrition,but also from new discoveries and interventions:everything from antibiotics and heart bypass surgery to cancer drugs that target and neutralize the impact of specific genetic mutations.

  美国人的预期寿命已从1900年的47岁跃升至将近80岁。飞跃主要源自卫生和营养条件的改善,同时也与新发现和新发明有关:从抗生素到心脏搭桥手术再到抗癌药物的各种新技术手段,可以瞄准并弥补特异性基因突变所带来的影响。

  How Long Do You Want to Live?

  如果可以长生不老,你愿意吗?

  Now scientists studying the intricacies of DNA and other molecular bio-dynamics may be poised to offer even more dramatic boosts to longevity.This comes not from setting out explicitly to conquer aging,which remains controversial in mainstream science,but from researchers developing new drugs and therapies for such maladies of growing old as heart disease and diabetes.

  而今,那些研究纷繁复杂的DNA和其他生物分子动力学的科学家可能即将为人类的长寿注入一股更加扣人心弦的动力。科学界并不是已经笃定要攻克衰老的问题,抗衰老这个话题在主流科学界里仍然颇具争议性,但研究者们正在针对因为衰老而引发的疾病,比如心脏病和糖尿病,研究新药和新的治疗手段。

  “Aging is the major risk factor for most diseases,”says Felipe Sierra,director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging.“The National Institutes of Health fund research into understanding the diseases of aging,not life extension,though this could be a side effect.”

  “对于大多数疾病来说,衰老都是一个主要的危险因素,”美国抗衰老研究所(National Institute on Aging)老化生物学研究中心主任菲利普·塞拉(Felipe Sierra)说:“美国国立卫生研究院(National Institutes of Health)正在资助研究,目的是为了理解老年病学而非延长人类寿命,不过后者也可能是研究的一大附属成果。”

  How many years might be added to a life?A few longevity enthusiasts suggest a possible increase of decades.Most others believe in more modest gains.And when will they come?Are we a decade away?Twenty years?Fifty years?

  人类的寿命将因此有望延长多少年?一些人类长寿的热衷人士认为有可能延长几十年。而其他大部分人则给出了更为审慎的猜想。可是这将在多少年后实现?我们距离这个目标还有10年?20年?还是50年?

  Even without a new high-tech“fix”for aging,the United Nations estimates that life expectancy over the next century will approach 100 years for women in the developed world and over 90 years for women in the developing world.(Men lag behind by three or four years.)

  联合国预测,即使对于人类衰老没有高科技的“修补”之道,到了下一个世纪,发达国家女性的平均寿命也将达到100周岁,而发展中国家的女性平均寿命可以超过90岁。(男性的寿命相比女性会少三到四年。)

  Whatever actually happens,this seems like a good time to ask a very basic question:How long do you want to live?

  不论在未来将会发生什么事情,看起来,现在都适合提出一个非常基础的问题:你想要活到多少岁?

  Over the past three years I have posed this query to nearly 30,000 people at the start of talks and lectures on future trends in bioscience,taking an informal poll as a show of hands.To make it easier to tabulate responses I provided four possible answers:80 years,currently the average life span in the West;120 years,close to the maximum anyone has lived;150 years,which would require a biotech breakthrough;and forever,which rejects the idea that life span has to have any limit at all.

  在过去三年里,我在进行生命科学未来趋势的谈话和演讲前,向将近3万名观众提出了这个问题,并进行了非正式的投票选举,观众们通过举手来回答问题。为了使答案更简单明了,我提供了四个可能的选项:80岁,也就是现在西方国家居民的平均寿命;120岁,接近现在人类的最高寿命;150岁,这需要取得生命科学的突破才能实现;永远不死,这完全与生命有限这个理念相悖。

  I made it clear that participants should not assume that science will come up with dramatic new anti-aging technologies,though people were free to imagine that breakthroughs might occur—or not.

  我还明确提醒参与者,他们不应想当然地认为未来会戏剧性地出现全新的抗衰老科技,不过他们可以大胆推想这样的突破有可能会发生——或者不会发生。

纽约时报中英文网 www.qqenglish.com

  The results:some 60 percent opted for a life span of 80 years.Another 30 percent chose 120 years,and almost 10 percent chose 150 years.Less than 1 percent embraced the idea that people might avoid death altogether.

  结果是:大约60%受访者选择活到80岁。另有30%的人选择活到120岁,将近10%的人选择了150岁。而只有不到1%的人喜欢永远不死这个想法。

  These percentages have held up as I’ve spoken to people from many walks of life in libraries and bookstores;teenagers in high schools;physicians in medical centers;and investors and entrepreneurs at business conferences.I’ve popped the question at meetings of futurists and techno-optimists and gotten perhaps a doubling of people who want to live to 150—less than I would have thought for these groups.

  我的演讲主要在图书馆和书店进行,面向各行各业的观众:读高中的青少年;在医学中心工作的医生;参加商务会议的投资者和创业家。在多次表决后,这个比例一直大体不变。在面对未来学家和科技乐观主义者的会议上,我也曾提出同样的问题,想要活到150岁的人的比例大概翻了一番——这比我对这部分人群预想的数字要少。

  Rarely,however,does anyone want to live forever,although abolishing disease and death from biological causes is a fervent hope for a small scattering of would-be immortals.

  选择永生的人数量总是微乎其微,虽然从生物学角度出发,战胜一切疾病与死亡,将最终有希望令人类长生不老。

  In my talks,I go on to describe some highlights of cutting-edge biomedical research that might influence human life span.

  我在演讲时,会进一步介绍一些有可能影响人类寿命的生命科学研究前沿的精彩亮点。

  For instance,right now drug companies are running clinical trials on new compounds that may have the“side effect”of extending life span.These include a drug at Sirtris,part of GlaxoSmithKline,that is being developed to treat inflammation and other diseases of aging.Called SRT-2104,this compound works on an enzyme called SIRT1 that,when activated,seems to slow aging in mice and other animals.It may do the same thing in humans,though this remains to be proven.

  比方说,现在一些制药公司正在对一些新药进行临床试验,而这些药物的“副作用”可能是延长寿命。其中一种药物由葛兰素史克(Glaxo Smith Kline)旗下的赛特里斯(Sirtris)公司研发,其初衷是用来治疗炎症和其他老年病。这种化合物的名叫SRT-2104,它可以对一种名叫SIRT1的酶产生作用,这种酶一旦被激发,貌似能够延长小鼠和其他动物的衰老速度。它或许也能对人产生类似的效果,不过这还有待证实。

  “Many serious attempts are being made to come up with a pill for aging,”said Dr.Sierra,though he suspects that there will not be a single anti-aging pill,if these compounds end up working at all.“It will be a combination of things.”

  “科学家已经进行了诸多严肃的尝试,想要找到一种不老药,”塞拉博士这样说,不过他认为就算这些化合物证实有效,也不可能单用一种药物就能对抗衰老问题。他说:“肯定需要多种药物协同作战。”

  For over a decade,scientists also have experimented with using stem cells—master cells that can grow into different specialized cells—to replace and repair tissue in the heart,liver and other organs in animals.Some researchers have succeeded in also using them in people.The researchers include the urologist Anthony Atala of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center,who has grown human bladders and urethras from stem cells that have been successfully transplanted into patients.<-->纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com<-->

  十多年来,科学家还曾尝试使用干细胞(可以分裂成不同特异细胞的主细胞)移植来替代或修复动物的心脏、肝脏和其他器官。一些研究者在人体试验中也取得了成功,其中包括威克·弗里斯特浸会医疗中心(Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)的泌尿学家安东尼·阿特拉(Anthony Atala),他用干细胞培养出了人类的膀胱和尿道,并成功移植到了病人体内。

  But another stem cell pioneer,James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin,believes that stem cell solutions will be a long time coming for more complex organs.“We’re a long way from transplanting cells into a human brain or nervous system,”he said.

  但另一位干细胞研究的先行者、威斯康星大学的詹姆斯·汤姆森(James Thomson)则认为,想要用干细胞移植的方面来解决其他更复杂的器官疾患,还为时尚早。“用移植干细胞再造人脑或神经系统,这还有很长的路要走。”

  ANOTHER intervention that might thwart the impact of aging is bionics:the augmentation or replacement of biological functions with machines.For years cardiac pacemakers have saved and extended the lives of millions of people.More recent devices and machine-tooled solutions have restored hearing to thousands who are deaf and replaced damaged knees and hips.Physicians use brain implants to help control tremors brought on by Parkinson’s disease.Researchers also are working on a wide range of other machine fixes,from exoskeletons that protect joints to experimental devices that tap into the brain activity of paralyzed patients,allowing them to operate computers using thought.

  还有一种干预措施可能会减缓衰老带来的影响,这就是仿生学:即用仪器来增强或取代生物学功能。多年来,心脏起搏器已经拯救和延长了数百万人的生命。而更多较新的器械和医疗仪器业已让成千上万人恢复了听力,或者置换了受伤的膝盖和髋关节。医生用脑内植入物来帮助控制因帕金森氏症(Parkinson’s disease)而引发的身体震颤。研究者目前在大范围使用其他各种医疗器械,从用于保护关节的外骨骼到用在瘫痪病人身上的试验性大脑活动感应装置,可以帮助病人通过意思来操作电脑。

  Curiously,after learning about these possibilities,few people wanted to change their votes.Even if I asked them to imagine that a pill had been invented to slow aging down by one-half,allowing a person who is,say,60 years old to have the body of a 30-year-old,only about 10 percent of audiences switched to favoring a life span of 150 years.

  有趣的是,在我的听众们得知了这些科技的发展可能后,没有多少人想要改变自己的选择。就算我请他们想象一下,人类已经发明了一种可以将人的衰老速度减半的小药丸,比方说让一个60岁的人拥有30岁的身体,仍然只有大概10%的听众改变了想法,转而选择150岁这个选项。

  Overwhelmingly the reason given was that people didn’t want to be old and infirm any longer than they had to be,even if a pill allowed them to delay this inevitability.

  受访者给出了一个压倒性的原因,那就是人们不希望自己要经历漫长得不必要的年迈体弱的时光,哪怕会有一种药物延缓这个不可避免的过程。

  Others were concerned about a range of issues both personal and societal that might result from extending the life spans of millions of people in a short time.These included everything from boredom and the cost of paying for a longer life to the impact of so many extra people on planetary resources and on the environment.Some worried that millions of healthy centenarians still working and calling the shots in society would leave our grandchildren and great-grandchildren without the jobs and opportunities that have traditionally come about with the passing of generations.

  还有些受访者谈到了数百万人在短时间内寿命得以延长,这会对个人生活和社会产生各种后果。原因林林总总,比如活得太久会让人感到厌倦,或者人均寿命增长将增加各种财政支出,以及人口激增将对地球资源和环境造成冲击。还有人担心在未来,上百万健康的百岁老人仍然在工作,甚至充当社会领袖角色,这可能会令我们的孙辈或重孙辈失去传统上随着世代更迭本应得到的工作和机会。

  Long-lifers countered that extending healthy lives would delay suffering,possibly for a very long time.This would allow people to accomplish more in life and to try new things.It would also mean that geniuses like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein might still be alive.Einstein,were he alive today,would be 133 years old.

  而支持人类继续增寿的人则反驳说,健康的生命得以延长,将可能使人们晚些遭受到病痛折磨。这能让人们取得更大成就,尝试更多新事物。它还意味着像史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)或阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦(Albert Einstein)这类天才可能至今存活于世。爱因斯坦如果还活着,现在应该是133岁了。

  That’s assuming that he would want to live that long.As he lay dying of an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 1955,he refused surgery,saying:“It is tasteless to prolong life artificially.I have done my share,it is time to go.I will do it elegantly.”

  但这种假设的前提是他真的想要活这么久。1955年,他因为腹主动脉瘤生命垂危,但拒绝接受手术,他说:“人为延长生命的做法着实无趣。我已经做完了我的份内事,是时候走了。我要走得优雅些。”

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