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Can ageing be stopped?

Gerontologists consider the maximum lifespan for humans to be about 120 years. But with rising evidence for a genetic "death programme," which in principle could be amended, some researchers are starting to believe the limit could be extended

By Philip Hunter   January 2007

Old age hardly exists in wild animals. Accident, illness or predation usually kill long before the potential lifespan has been reached. Humans, though, especially in the developed world, are pushing in ever larger numbers towards the maximum lifespan, thought by most gerontologists to be around 120. (The world longevity record is held by the Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days.)

In Britain in 1901, life expectancy at birth was 49 for women and 45 for men. By 2002, this had risen to 81 and 76 respectively. This rapid increase in longevity has created…

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