If Humans Were Built to Last

by | Feb 23, 2022

What stands out, if it isn’t obvious, is the common theme of natural selection that with rare exceptions (humans and whales for example), mammals are quadrupeds. That is, they move about with four appendages on the ground rather than two (feet) like the humans walking past the exhibits in this picture.

The second picture shows this clearly. Notice that the spines of the mammals shown are aligned to the ground horizontally rather than vertically.

This may appear to be an esoteric observation, but as it turns out, it is highly relevant to the life settlement industry and reliable and consistent forecasts of survival. Here’s why.

Lapetus’ reviews of the medical records of patients you send to us reveal a common set of health conditions that are associated with using these human bodies beyond what I refer to as their “biological warranty period”. We see patterns of disease expression exactly as you see patterns in body design in this photograph. Keep in mind, the human body is composed of a complex array of pulleys, pumps, levers, and hinges that evolved over millennia to our current form. We explain this complexity, and consistency, in an article published in Scientific American (SCIAM) with the same title as this essay. In a subsequent article published in The Scientist, we went inside the body and re-engineered our physiology so that it could last longer. There is no doubt that our astute clients see the same patterns of disease and death that we see.

One of the images in the SCIAM article is shown here where we point out that the price humans pay for walking upright is a suite of commonly observed health conditions associated with bipedal locomotion; the vertical transport of body fluids against the force of gravity; (a pumping heart with thousands of miles of tubes of varying sizes); hinges (knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, etc.); and a spinal column separated by spongy disks that disintegrate over time – also due to the vertical force of gravity.

By contrast, quadrupeds (like dogs, cats, horses and elephants) tend to face somewhat different health issues and survival prospects because gravity exerts its influence on the spine from a different angle; slightly different mechanisms for cellular repair evolved based on when the species reproduces; and body fluids are transported with varying degrees of efficiency.

This variation is linked to the timing of reproduction for each species – recall my previous essay entitled “The Price We Pay for Sex is Death”.

This means that the presence of an age-related rise in the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurological challenges, and all other fatal and non-fatal diseases and disorders that influence survival and health, are not byproducts so much of lifestyle factors (although harmful lifestyles can and most often do accelerate these disease processes and shorten survival); they are normal, natural, and expected consequences of the basic body design inherited by us all. This is the message contained in the common pattern of body design in mammals exhibited at the Field Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Acknowledging this, Lapetus reviews focus heavily on the unique attributes of individuals that are inherited and acquired during the course of life that operate both beneath the surface and in plain sight, and ultimately influence these normal and natural disease processes and subsequent survival.

The same holds true for the genetic changes that arise in the cells of older bodies. Cancers arise not because we did something wrong during the course of life, but because we survive into a time window when these health issues tend to be expressed.

In our SCIAM article we go into detail on what goes wrong with our bodies; when in the lifespan of our species health issues arise; and what forces influence the common diseases now expressed in later regions of the lifespan. We then speculated on what humans might look like if we took the reins of evolution into our own hands and “designed” a body that would last longer than it does now. The final image we came up with is shown here.

The message in the SCIAM article and this newsletter is not that we can design human bodies better than natural selection; but that all of the physicians and scientists at Lapetus are acutely aware of the influence of biological aging on our bodies and the range of survival consequences of driving our bodies (like our cars) with caution or reckless abandon, and everything in between. We see the same patterns of diseases that you see (and no doubt experience personally) expressed consistently at roughly the same ages; and we make use of an extensive body of medical and scientific knowledge accumulated during the last half century that informs us just how long people with these conditions tend to live – as the foundation for our estimates of LE and survival.

You should find some degree of comfort knowing that the patterns of survival and disease expression we now see in humans (whether it’s cardiovascular diseases; cancers; cognitive decline; frailty; or the unique survival dynamics of super agers), has been measured and observed in both humans and a broad range of other species that live longer and shorter than us – and these events are expected and predictable. The good news when it comes to predicting duration of life is that these survival-influencing forces and their consequences are highly predictable, measurable, and observable – as long as you know where to look.