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Synopsis

An award-winning writer explores science's boldest frontier - extension of the human life span - with the researchers and entrepreneurs who are racing to create medicines that will allow us to live longer and better.
Aging, cancer, stem cells, cloning - the themes of Merchants of Immortality are the stuff of today's headlines, yet they reflect some of humankind's most ancient hopes and fears. Stephen S. Hall delves behind the headlines to reveal just how close scientists are to fulfilling hopes of longer, healthier lives. Merchants of Immortality tackles profound social questions: How close are we to cloning humans? Can stem cell therapies tame illnesses such as heart attacks, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes? How long might our children live?
Hall's account of life-extension research is as dramatic as it is authoritative. The story follows a close-knit but fractious band of scientists and entrepreneurs who work in the shadowy area between profit and the public good. Hall tracks the science of aging back to its father figure, the iconoclastic Leonard Hayflick, who was the first to show that cells age and whose epic legal battles with the federal government cleared the path for today's biotech visionaries. Chief among those is the charismatic Michael West, a former creationist who founded the first biotech company devoted to aging research. West has won both ardent admirers and committed foes in his relentless quest to promote stem cells, therapeutic cloning, and other technologies of "practical immortality." Merchants of Immortality breathes scintillating life into the most momentous science of our day, assesses the political and bioethical controversies it has spawned, and explores its potentially dramatic effect on the length and quality of our lives.

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