No matter how well we stick to even the most perfect diet and lifestyle, there are limits to what we can achieve by just trying to stay healthy.
Our metabolism itself damages our cells, inside and out. The byproducts and damage accumulate over time to the point where things start breaking down and our bodies age and become ill.
Conventional research on aging tries to fully understand how these unwanted byproducts are produced, what damage they cause and how it can be minimized by manipulating our metabolism (e.g. with calorie restriction). Unfortunately, this has proven to be extremely elusive, progress painfully slow and even if successful only of limited use, since they only minimally decrease the amount of damage done and junk created. Some practical results of this approach exist and can be used today, but unfortunately are inherently limited in efficiency and the extent of healthy life extension they offer.
It's just the way our whole body is set up to operate. Just like a car, we can tune the engine to produce less damaging by-products, less friction, and less stress for the whole system. However, we cannot totally get rid of the adverse effects of operating the engine. No matter how well we tune it, it will always produce some level of damage that in the end will lead to a breakdown.
Applying molecular and cellular repair is probably the most exciting and promising approach to overcome aging. It is an alternative and fresh view on how to develop therapies to cure aging.
At the core is a very pragmatic view: A certain amount of damage and unwanted byproducts that our body is not able to deal with is the inevitable result of our metabolism. They need to be fixed before any harm is done, just like an old car with proper maintenance can be kept functional almost indefinitely - despite the ongoing wear and tear.
Seven major groups of unwanted byproducts and damage have been identified that holistically describe the process of aging. This allows viewing the huge challenge to cure aging as a number of individual, much smaller sub-challenges that can each be tackled on their own. This enormously reduces the complexity of the whole task, making it manageable through use of a step-by-step approach.
Once we have discovered enough maintenance therapies, we will be able to keep our bodies functional far, far longer than with any conventional approach.
Out of all the long-term strategies that try to undo or prevent our aging process, the engineering approach to repair the damage caused by aging on a cellular and molecular level is by far the most promising in terms of producing dramatic, applicable results in the mid-term future.
Ending Ageing (Reading List)
The SENS Research Foundation (sens.org)
Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (fightageing.org)