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Do you want to live forever?

If you thought that the Internet of Things was going to be the big news of the coming century, that a cure for the common cold would stop the front pages or that the defeat of terrorism would change the world then you’re probably right – but all of that pales into insignificance compared to what is going to be the really big news of 2016. The story of the year ahead will be a cure for aging: and you heard it here first.

Ever since time began man has searched for the elixir to prolong his temporal journey. And now it’s here – and we’re not talking face creams or hair dye – we are talking 40 more years of life. Dracula, eat your heart out.

The drug is called Metformin, although by the time it hits the high street it’ll probably have a catchier name – like Pheonix, or Madonna, or maybe Cliff Richard. Fortunately for us Metformin is a generic drug, which means that it can be copied by any pharmaceutical company. It won’t be expensive either and it is going to be sold at a chemist in a high street near you. So start queuing – but don’t worry, you’re going to have plenty of time.

The science of ageing is really quite simple: over time the cells in our bodies divide billions of times and the sheer scale of the process leads to mistakes. This means that as time passes fresh healthy cells start to deteriorate. Metformin acts on these cell divisions and slows them down. Fewer divisions means fewer mistakes and so we stay in our original condition for longer. In a study unrelated to ageing, completed at Cardiff University last year, scientists noticed that patients on the drug lived significantly longer than those on alternative treatments – despite having more serious medical problems. The Cardiff study identified what are essentially side effects, but which will change the world as we know it. As with many drugs their original use turns out not to be one that offers the real benefits. Now a full-scale trial in America has started and it very much looks as if the results will come quickly. It’s unlikely that the drug will be on sale this year, but it’s not going to take long before the news starts to spread.

Curiously the drug was first synthesised in 1958, but whilst it’s been available on prescription for many years its life-giving potential wasn’t noticed until very recently. Some might question the economic and social implications of such a drug but the promise of an elderly population in good health, free from dementia, cancer and other expensive ailments is difficult to object to. Will it bring an expansion of the population and a corresponding strain on the resources of the planet? Will it create a need for everyone to work longer to meet the pensions bill? Probably, yes, but the experience in business, politics and industry is sure to have positive economic results: even more importantly it will give time for current generations to discover even more significant ways of enabling humans to live forever.