Last minute holiday gifts for the bio-inspired
“Merry Christmas! Isn’t it fun to say Merry Christmas to everyone? Time for a party and presents and things that make children happy and give their hearts wings!” go the lyrics of the popular Christmas poem. But adults (of various religions) need their gifts this time of year, too. For the biologically inspired big children, the process of finding the right fit can be daunting. To inform your choices in both conventional and unconventional ways, Leaps.org is presenting a roundup of the coolest bio-products related to health, nutrition, gaming, lifestyle and more.
AYO Circadian Light Therapy Wearable
We don’t hear it tick, but we have our own clock inside our body–more precisely, circadian clocks. Our cells contain tiny molecular clocks that keep track of our circadian rhythms, or our sleep and metabolism pattern and activity levels, on a daily basis. Chronic circadian disruptions can lead to sleep disorders, poor energy levels, weight gain, lousy mood, and sped-up aging, as well as increased risk for every “modern” disease out there, from diabetes to cancer.
Now, high-tech glasses have been developed that attempt to mimic the benefits of sunlight. In the morning and afternoon, these glasses shed blue light into your eyes to stimulate the master clock at the base of your brain for less drowsiness. The technology's design draws from an area of research, chronobiology, that received a Nobel Prize in 2017 and has become increasingly active in recent years.
“We have been developing and testing the AYO Circadian Health solution for the past five years in collaboration with some of the world's leading experts and researchers in chronobiology, light therapy and health,” said Alexander Dimitrov, co-creator of AYO. “We have done studies with over 25,000 participants, and over one million light sessions,” Dimotrov continued, partnering with institutions such as Mount Sinai Hospital, City of Hope and the U.S. Department of Defense.
The technology could fundamentally reshape the way we view sleep, health and our daily calendars. And, when connecting to a mobile app, the glasses could minimize circadian disruptions for travelers between conflicting time zones.
It's not easy for many people to break free of their attachment to the concept of chronological age, which counts years by how many times we’ve circled the sun since the day we were born. Society lumps us all into one age bracket according to our date of birth but, lately, research is suggesting that we should do some serious deconditioning. According to these studies, the more accurate measure is your biological age, a measurement based on various biomarkers of the body’s overall health and resilience, regardless of your calendar age.
If you want to find out your “true” biological age, myDNAge is a test that focuses on epigenetics, or patterns of changes in DNA methylation, with some initial research pointing to its accuracy. It offers a snapshot of your epigenetic age as well as key biomarkers related to your metabolism, risk of Alzheimer's and more, according to Xiaojing Yang, group leader of epigenetics at myDNAge. “You can perform tests six to 12 months [apart] to track the impact of lifestyle changes,” Yang said. The kit could be a useful tool both for citizen scientists and biohacking veterans.
($299 for one kit–Use code NEWYEARNEWME to receive 50% off a second kit)
Prairie Sky Yak Cheese
Do you love cheese? Do you love exotic cheese? Do you have an interest in preserving biological and genetic diversity? If you answered yes to all three questions, yak cheese was made for you. This type of cheese typically comes from a free-range yak living 13,000 feet above surface level in the Tibetan Himalayas, a relative of the endangered Wild yak. (North America is home to at least 5,000 registered yaks.)
“When I learned that we had a piece of rare biodiversity to be preserved for future generations, I realized that the yak in North America needed a job,” said Nicole Geijer Porter, president of World Heritage Yak Conservancy (WHYC), an organization formed to protect heritage yak “If an animal cannot be beneficial to the rancher in some way, exclusively as pets and lawn ornaments, they will go extinct. Raised for meat they are often hybridized with cattle to grow bigger and faster, so they will also go extinct,” said Porter, an epigeneticist turned yak herder.
Each slice of cheese and piece of butter supports the genetic testing and tracking of Tibetan yak. (You can become a member of WHYC through the Adopt-A-Yak program). “This project is also of biological importance because of the low methane emission research on yak, and the high nutritional content of the milk and cheese,” said Porter.
As for flavor, the Prairie Sky Yak Gruyere is a semi-hard cheese with a nutty taste sometimes compared to chocolate; Tomme de Savoie is a semi-soft Alpine cheese reminiscent of a washed rind muenster; and the Yak Cheddar is made with yak milk following the classic English recipe from Wells Cathedral, with earthly and pungent flavors.
(Various prices; $59.95 for the Three Yak Cheese Flight Gift Box, $139.95 for the Regional Himalayan Yak Cheddar Gift Basket and more)
Bite Toothpaste Bits
The price of a healthy smile is steep. Each year over one billion plastic toothpaste tubes are thrown out, over 50 Empire State Buildings worth of these tubes end up in landfills or oceans, and many animals suffer and die each year in cruel tests for improving oral care in people.
Sustainable oral care is both an act of self-love and giving back to the environment. Bite is a toothpaste that boasts about its green practices for a reason: it uses recyclable glass bottles with aluminum lids that break down into sand after they’ve been used. For shipping, Bite uses kraft envelopes padded with recycled and compostable newspapers, and its boxes are made of fully recycled, corrugated cardboard and sealed with paper tape. Bite refills come in 100% home compostable pouches every four months (still no plastic).
Sustainability aside, there may be an element of fun to Bite – as you brush, a mint foam forms “like magic,” the company claims.
Fractional Laser Treatment for Skin
The environment is hard on our skin: from ultraviolet rays to pollution, a constant oxidative war is waged upon it, leading to loss of collagen and damage to the barrier function of the skin. A fractional laser treatment is a type of laser skin resurfacing procedure that essentially traumatizes the skin – in a good way - through subjecting a small area of it to tiny amounts of laser energy. The laser penetrates the second layer of skin, the dermis, leading to skin exfoliation, which stimulates collagen and elastin production.
The treatment may help with soothing acne scarring, correcting uneven skin tone and texture, and reducing wrinkles and fine lines, sun damage and age spots. Recent research suggests the fractional laser can help with improving skin elasticity and reducing the amount and depth of wrinkles, though there’s little to no evidence for any benefits for eyebags, dark circles, discolorations within the eye area and water retention.
(Typically, a single fractional laser treatment costs $750 for a small area, $1500 for a full facial treatment, and $2000 for full face.)
Gadgets and Apps to Measure Your Heart Rate Variability
Heart rate variability may sound like a condition that requires immediate medical treatment, but the more you have of it, the better for your health. Although you may think of the heart as a steadily beating metronome, there are actually small differences in the amount of time between each beat. These differences are called HRV, and having more HRV has been linked to better fitness and fewer diseases.
HRV is easy to measure with a range of gadgets on the market, including Fitbits and Oura Rings. Which product floats your boat is a matter of personal preference, but the Polar H10 chest strap offers some advantages. For example, you can measure your HRV with the Polar H10 while walking around, unlike some devices that require you to stay still while taking a reading.
Plus, the Polar sensor pairs with free apps such as Elite HRV that are great for tracking how your HRV changes over time. "HRV really helps you gauge if you're moving in a positive or negative direction" with your health, says Jason Moore, the CEO and founder of Elite HRV and Spren. Have fun experimenting over the holidays with different lifestyle habits that are associated with higher HRV, some studies show, such as intermittent fasting, regular exercise and just getting more sleep.
($89 for the Polar H10, $0 for the Elite HRV app)
Its predecessor, FOODMarble AIRE1 was a pocket-size breath-testing device that measured hydrogen on the breath. More hydrogen means less digestion, and the AIRE1 used advanced breathalyzer technology to figure out what exactly is going on with the gut. Now, the company has launched FoodMarble AIRE2, which also measures methane alongside with hydrogen. High levels of methane in the body may cause abdominal pain, bloating and constipation, cirrhosis of the liver and chronic pancreatitis. The AIRE2 also comes with haptic feedback to make it easier to use.
Research suggests that these breath tests are valid as at-home diagnostic tools for many digestive conditions. To get the most accurate results, though, it’s important to closely follow the recommended protocol - for example, you can’t eat or drink anything for 10 to 12 hours before the test.
Adventurist Backpack’s Classic Backpack
The Classic backpack is a perfect option for life science aficionados who enjoy getting outside and exploring in nature. Padding in the front and back provides extra protection for camera gear, laptop, and other electronics, and it's completely water-resistant so you can get outside in winter weather.
Nobility points: Adventurist Backpack Co. is partnered with national non-profit Feeding America, and every backpack sold helps provide 25 meals to families in need across the U.S.
This Saves Lives
Speaking of nobility points, you could load your new backpack with a food choice that helps feed others as well. In 2013, actors Kristin Bell, Ryan Devlin, Ravi Patel and Todd Grinnell teamed up to start This Saves Lives, which makes power bars full of vitamins and nutrients, and the company has a unique business model: for every bar you buy, a packet of food is sent to a child in need. In addition to offering essential nutrients, the bars are non-GMO, kosher and gluten-free. Note: This Saves Lives is owned by the same company, GOOD Worldwide, that owns Leaps.org.
(Wild Blueberry & Pistachio bars, $23.99)
NADI X Pants
Even if you’re a yoga zealot enjoying the benefits to your strength, balance and flexibility, chances are you're performing the movements sort of askew. Wearable technology wants to improve your yoga posture and these sleek yoga pants called NADI X have subtle electronic sensors that track how you place your hands, rotate your hips, and align your back. The leggings use haptic feedback (or vibrations on your skin) to slowly guide you into correct alignment. You can also combine the wearable with an app that contains 40 poses and fitting music. Even if you aren't into yoga, you could use the pants for a perfect stretching session. If you do use it for yoga poses, the pants will “speak” to you, letting out a soothing "om" sound once everything is perfect.
Meta Quest Pro VR headset
When it comes to perfecting virtual reality (VR), the Meta Quest Pro VR headset is one step ahead the rest. In a vibrant 3D virtual space, your Meta avatar has the ability to translate your real-life facial expressions into the virtual realm so the experience can feel more personal, while controllers track your movement and use haptic feedback to translate your hand gestures and finger actions into VR as well. Unlike its Quest 2 headset, Meta markets this Quest Pro headset, which was just released in October, as a great tool for work and business meetings, but you can also use it to play games, watch movies, or download fitness apps or mental-health related apps – some of which are designed to help you get boxing workouts with long-distance friends, fight your fear of heights or meditate in outer space.
Rouge Sur Mesure Custom Lip Color Creator
Beauty and artificial intelligence (AI) complement each other well in the new Yves Saint Laurent lip personalized color – which wants to put the final nail on the coffin of generic lipsticks. This is a lipstick printer at its core. You pair a device to your smartphone and then insert three lipstick cartridges into the base, each of which comes with a color palette (all four could create up to 4,000 lipstick shades). Particularly charming is the fact that you can take a photo of your outfit, and the app will suggest shades that match or clash it.
($299, cartridges $89 each)
Dairy-Free Cream Cheese and Meatless Breakfast Patties
On the environmental front again, meatless patties and dairy-free cream cheese constitute conscientious and delicious choices for vegans, vegetarians and pretty much anyone else. Chicago-based Nature's Fynd is worth checking out. It uses a microbe named Fusarium strain flavolapis, which has origins in an acidic hot spring at Yellowstone National Park.
“We use this remarkable microbe to grow Fy — a nutritional fungi protein that’s made into a wide variety of delicious and sustainable foods,” says Karuna Rawal, Nature’s Fynd CMO. Fy is grown via a breakthrough fermentation process using a fraction of the water, land, and energy compared to traditional protein sources.
It’s a sustainable way to grow food for Earth’s population,” but Nature’s Fynd isn’t just concentrating on Earth. The company recently partnered with NASA to send Fy to space. “As long as there’s an appropriately controlled environment, we can grow Fy anytime, anywhere. It could be a nutritious food source for astronauts on deep space missions," said Rawal.
Biologically curious people may be especially interested in trying cannabinoid (CBD) oil. CBD is a natural and safe substance found in cannabis, which has been found to tackle anxiety and depression, reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, help manage chronic pain and migraines, improve sleep patterns, and keep panic attacks at bay. Kanibi’s Isolate CBD Oil Tincture is a good choice as it is cinnamon-flavored and made in an FDA-inspected facility.
($109--25% off on your first order)
Govee RGBIC Floor Lamp
Another winner for anyone who's been hearing about the health benefits of obeying your circadian rhythms: "RGB" lights, or red-green-blue lights that can be operated by remote control to shine bright blue light during the day and then, with a few touches of your phone, bathe you in warmer, red light to get you ready for bed. Look for RGB bulbs to stick into the light fixtures you already have, or you could opt for the Govee floor lamp that syncs with an app on your phone (or Alexa) for circadian color changing. You can also put it on party mode and watch it shift across 16 million color shades in response to the rhythms and beats of Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas and Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.
If you suffer from packing anxiety (or incompetence), an app may take away the pain. PackPoint is an app that builds your packing list according to trip type, activities and weather. You add your trip details, select activities (fancy dinner, business meeting, or even workout are some examples), and PackPoint tells you what you need to bring to your destination. The app is free, but upgrading to Premium for a small fee lets you add your own activities and packing list items.
(Free, Premium Package $2.99)
Roses symbolize love, passion, innocence, friendship, and the disarming power of natural beauty. They wilt fast, though, and their spectacle is an unsettling reminder of the fragility of beauty and existence. Unless you dip the rose in 24 karat gold.
The Eternity Rose is put through an intricate three-month process of electroplating, or coating the rose with copper and then with other metals in micro-thin layers. You won’t have to see your flowers sag after a few days because these roses never die. The glitter of gold atop the natural rose (or platinum or silver–whatever you prefer) will fit right in with the Christmas Eve ambiance.
($169 for the gold rose)
Could epigenetic reprogramming reverse aging?
Ten thousand years ago, the average human spent a maximum of 30 years on Earth. Despite the glory of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, most of their inhabitants didn’t surpass the age of 35. Between the 1500s and 1800, life expectancy (at least in Europe) fluctuated between 30 and 40 years.
Public health advancements like control of infectious diseases, better diet and clean sanitation, as well as social improvements have made it possible for human lifespans to double since 1800. Although lifespan differs widely today from country to country according to socioeconomic health, the average has soared to 73.2 years.
But this may turn out to be on the low side if epigenetic rejuvenation fulfills its great promise: to reverse aging, perhaps even completely. Epigenetic rejuvenation, or partial reprogramming, is the process by which a set of therapies are trying to manipulate epigenetics – how various changes can affect our genes – and the Yamanaka factors. These Yamanaka factors are a group of proteins that can convert any cell of the body into pluripotent stem cells, a group of cells that can turn into brand new cells, such as those of the brain or skin. At least in theory, it could be a recipe for self-renewal.
“Partial reprogramming tries to knock a few years off of people’s biological age, while preserving their original cell identity and function,” says Yuri Deigin, cofounder and director of YouthBio Therapeutics, a longevity startup utilizing partial reprogramming to develop gene therapies aimed at the renewal of epigenetic profiles. YouthBio plans to experiment with injecting these gene therapies into target organs. Once the cargo is delivered, a specific small molecule will trigger gene expression and rejuvenate those organs.
“Our ultimate mission is to find the minimal number of tissues we would need to target to achieve significant systemic rejuvenation,” Deigin says. Initially, YouthBio will apply these therapies to treat age-related conditions. Down the road, though, their goal is for everyone to get younger. “We want to use them for prophylaxis, which is rejuvenation that would lower disease risk,” Deigin says.
Epigenetics has swept the realm of biology off its feet over the last decade. We now know that we can switch genes on and off by tweaking the chemical status quo of the DNA’s local environment. "Epigenetics is a fascinating and important phenomenon in biology,’’ says Henry Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford Law School. Greely is quick to stress that this kind of modulation (turning genes on and off and not the entire DNA) happens all the time. “When you eat and your blood sugar goes up, the gene in the beta cells of your pancreas that makes insulin is turned on or up. Almost all medications are going to have effects on epigenetics, but so will things like exercise, food, and sunshine.”
Can intentional control over epigenetic mechanisms lead to novel and useful therapies? “It is a very plausible scenario,” Greely says, though a great deal of basic research into epigenetics is required before it becomes a well-trodden way to stay healthy or treat disease. Whether these therapies could cause older cells to become younger in ways that have observable effects is “far from clear,” he says. “Historically, betting on someone’s new ‘fountain of youth’ has been a losing strategy.”
The road to de-differentiation, the process by which cells return to an earlier state, is not paved with roses; de-differentiate too much and you may cause pathology and even death.
In 2003 researchers finished sequencing the roughly 3 billion letters of DNA that make up the human genome. The human genome sequencing was hailed as a vast step ahead in our understanding of how genetics contribute to diseases like cancer or to developmental disorders. But for Josephine Johnston, director of research and research scholar at the Hastings Center, the hype has not lived up to its initial promise. “Other than some quite effective tests to diagnose certain genetic conditions, there isn't a radical intervention that reverses things yet,” Johnston says. For her, this is a testament to the complexity of biology or at least to our tendency to keep underestimating it. And when it comes to epigenetics specifically, Johnston believes there are some hard questions we need to answer before we can safely administer relevant therapies to the population.
“You'd need to do longitudinal studies. You can't do a study and look at someone and say they’re safe only six months later,” Johnston says. You can’t know long-term side effects this way, and how will companies position their therapies on the market? Are we talking about interventions that target health problems, or life enhancements? “If you describe something as a medical intervention, it is more likely to be socially acceptable, to attract funding from governments and ensure medical insurance, and to become a legitimate part of medicine,” she says.
Johnston’s greatest concerns are of the philosophical and ethical nature. If we’re able to use epigenetic reprogramming to double the human lifespan, how much of the planet’s resources will we take up during this long journey? She believes we have a moral obligation to make room for future generations. “We should also be honest about who's actually going to afford such interventions; they would be extraordinarily expensive and only available to certain people, and those are the people who would get to live longer, healthier lives, and the rest of us wouldn't.”
That said, Johnston agrees there is a place for epigenetic reprogramming. It could help people with diseases that are caused by epigenetic problems such as Fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and various cancers.
Zinaida Good, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford Cancer Institute, says these problems are still far in the future. Any change will be incremental. “Thinking realistically, there’s not going to be a very large increase in lifespan anytime soon,” she says. “I would not expect something completely drastic to be invented in the next 5 to 10 years. ”
Good won’t get any such treatment for herself until it’s shown to be effective and safe. Nature has programmed our bodies to resist hacking, she says, in ways that could undermine any initial benefits to longevity. A preprint that is not yet peer-reviewed reports cellular reprogramming may lead to premature death due to liver and intestinal problems, and using the Yamanaka factors may have the potential to cause cancer, at least in animal studies.
“Side effects are an open research question that all partial reprogramming companies and labs are trying to address,” says Deigin. The road to de-differentiation, the process by which cells return to an earlier state, is not paved with roses; de-differentiate too much and you may cause pathology and even death. Deigin is exploring other, less risky approaches. “One way is to look for novel factors tailored toward rejuvenation rather than de-differentiation.” Unlike Yamanaka factors, such novel factors would never involve taking a given cell to a state in which it could turn cancerous, according to Deigin.
An example of a novel factor that could lower the risk of cancer is artificially introducing mRNA molecules, or molecules carrying the genetic information necessary to make proteins, by using electricity to penetrate the cell instead of a virus. There is also chemical-based reprogramming, in which chemicals are applied to convert regular cells into pluripotent cells. This approach is currently effective only for mice though.
“The search for novel factors tailored toward rejuvenation without de-differentiation is an ongoing research and development effort by several longevity companies, including ours,” says Deigin.
He isn't disclosing the details of his own company’s underlying approach to lowering the risk, but he’s hopeful that something will eventually end up working in humans. Yet another challenge is that, partly because of the uncertainties, the FDA hasn’t seen fit to approve a single longevity therapy. But with the longevity market projected to soar to $600 billion by 2025, Deigin says naysayers are clinging irrationally to the status quo. “Thankfully, scientific progress is moved forward by those who bet for something while disregarding the skeptics - who, in the end, are usually proven wrong.”
Technology is Redefining the Age of 'Older Mothers'
In October 2021, a woman from Gujarat, India, stunned the world when it was revealed she had her first child through in vitro fertilization (IVF) at age 70. She had actually been preceded by a compatriot of hers who, two years before, gave birth to twins at the age of 73, again with the help of IVF treatment. The oldest known mother to conceive naturally lived in the UK; in 1997, Dawn Brooke conceived a son at age 59.
These women may seem extreme outliers, almost freaks of nature; in the US, for example, the average age of first-time mothers is 26. A few decades from now, though, the sight of 70-year-old first-time mothers may not even raise eyebrows, say futurists.
“We could absolutely have more 70-year-old mothers because we are learning how to regulate the aging process better,” says Andrew Hessel, a microbiologist and geneticist, who cowrote "The Genesis Machine," a book about “rewriting life in the age of synthetic biology,” with Amy Webb, the futurist who recently wondered why 70-year-old women shouldn’t give birth.
Technically, we're already doing this, says Hessel, pointing to a technique known as in vitro gametogenesis (IVG). IVG refers to turning adult cells into sperm or egg cells. “You can think of it as the upgrade to IVF,” Hessel says. These vanguard stem cell research technologies can take even skin cells and turn them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are basically master cells capable of maturing into any human cell, be it kidney cells, liver cells, brain cells or gametes, aka eggs and sperm, says Henry T. “Hank” Greely, a Stanford law professor who specializes in ethical, legal, and social issues in biosciences.
Mothers over 70 will be a minor blip, statistically speaking, Greely predicts.
In 2016, Greely wrote "The End of Sex," a book in which he described the science of making gametes out of iPSCs in detail. Greely says science will indeed enable us to see 70-year-old new mums fraternize with mothers several decades younger at kindergartens in the (not far) future. And it won’t be that big of a deal.
“An awful lot of children all around the world have been raised by grandmothers for millennia. To have 70-year-olds and 30-year-olds mingling in maternal roles is not new,” he says. That said, he doubts that many women will want to have a baby in the eighth decade of their life, even if science allows it. “Having a baby and raising a child is hard work. Even if 1% of all mothers are over 65, they aren’t going to change the world,” Greely says. Mothers over 70 will be a minor blip, statistically speaking, he predicts. But one thing is certain: the technology is here.
And more technologies for the same purpose could be on the way. In March 2021, researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, published research in Nature, where they successfully reprogrammed skin cells into a three-dimensional cellular structure that was morphologically and molecularly similar to a human embryo–the iBlastoid. In compliance with Australian law and international guidelines referencing the “primitive streak rule," which bans the use of embryos older than 14 days in scientific research, Monash scientists stopped growing their iBlastoids in vitro on day 11.
“The research was both cutting-edge and controversial, because it essentially created a new human life, not for the purpose of a patient who's wanting to conceive, but for basic research,” says Lindsay Wu, a senior lecturer in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), in Kensington, Australia. If you really want to make sure what you are breeding is an embryo, you need to let it develop into a viable baby. “This is the real proof in the pudding,'' says Wu, who runs UNSW’s Laboratory for Ageing Research. Then you get to a stage where you decide for ethical purposes you have to abort it. “Fiddling here a bit too much?” he asks. Wu believes there are other approaches to tackling declining fertility due to older age that are less morally troubling.
He is actually working on them. Why would it be that women, who are at peak physical health in almost every other regard, in their mid- to late- thirties, have problems conceiving, asked Wu and his team in a research paper published in 2020 in Cell Reports. The simple answer is the egg cell. An average girl in puberty has between 300,000 and 400,000 eggs, while at around age 37, the same woman has only 25,000 eggs left. Things only go downhill from there. So, what torments the egg cells?
The UNSW team found that the levels of key molecules called NAD+ precursors, which are essential to the metabolism and genome stability of egg cells, decline with age. The team proceeded to add these vitamin-like substances back into the drinking water of reproductively aged, infertile lab mice, which then had babies.
“It's an important proof of concept,” says Wu. He is investigating how safe it is to replicate the experiment with humans in two ongoing studies. The ultimate goal is to restore the quality of egg cells that are left in patients in their late 30s and early- to mid-40s, says Wu. He sees the goal of getting pregnant for this age group as less ethically troubling, compared to 70-year-olds.
But what is ethical, anyway? “It is a tricky word,” says Hessel. He differentiates between ethics, which represent a personal position and may, thus, be more transient, and morality, longer lasting principles embraced across society such as, “Thou shalt not kill.” Unprecedented advances often bring out fear and antagonism until time passes and they just become…ordinary. When IVF pioneer Landrum Shettles tried to perform IVF in 1973, the chairman of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons interdicted the procedure at the last moment. Almost all countries in the world have IVF clinics today, and the global IVF services market is clearly a growth industry.
Besides, you don’t have a baby at 70 by accident: you really want it, Greely and Hessel agree. And by that age, mothers may be wiser and more financially secure, Hessel says (though he is quick to add that even the pregnancy of his own wife, who had her child at 40, was a high-risk one).
As a research question, figuring out whether older mothers are better than younger ones and vice-versa entails too many confounding variables, says Greely. And why should we focus on who’s the better mother anyway? “We've had 70-year-old and 80-year-old fathers forever–why should people have that much trouble getting used to mothers doing the same?” Greely wonders. For some women having a child at an old(er) age would be comforting; maybe that’s what matters.
And the technology to enable older women to have children is already here or coming very soon. That, perhaps, matters even more. Researchers have already created mice–and their offspring–entirely from scratch in the lab. “Doing this to produce human eggs is similar," says Hessel. "It is harder to collect tissues, and the inducing cocktails are different, but steady advances are being made." He predicts that the demand for fertility treatments will keep financing research and development in the area. He says that big leaps will be made if ethical concerns don’t block them: it is not far-fetched to believe that the first baby produced from lab-grown eggs will be born within the next decade.
In an op-ed in 2020 with Stat, Greely argued that we’ve already overcome the technical barrier for human cloning, but no one's really talking about it. Likewise, scientists are also working on enabling 70-year-old women to have babies, says Hessel, but most commentators are keeping really quiet about it. At least so far.