While studying COVID-19 in elderly patients, a team of Israeli scientists may have stumbled upon something miraculous.

(photo: Timo Luege)

In the United States, as in the world, the wealth gap has never been wider.

The wealth gap is so wide, in fact, it can barely be rendered by graph. If the wealth of the wealthiest were represented by, let’s say, the Empire State Building, the wealth of the rest of us would be a rendering too small to be viewed by the naked eye.

Likewise, if the wealth of the rest of us were represented by this comma, the wealthiest of the topmost one percent would need a comma the size of the moon for comparison. Or Jupiter.

COVID-19 mitigation made the wealth gap even worse.

COVID-19 mitigation measures, taken to varying degrees worldwide, have impacted impoverished communities with a level of multi-faceted devastation that will take decades to overcome, if indeed the world’s poor ever do.

From low-income kids kept out of public schools for over a year- while their wealthier counterparts attended private schools, hired tutors, and participated in learning pods- to the working poor in developing nations whose aspirations towards the middle class have been reclaimed by generational poverty- COVID-19 mitigation worsened wealth inequality.

Among other disparities.

Your local Mom and Pops are out of business. Main Street U.S.A. is more deserted than it was in the years soon after shopping malls and Wal-Mart came to town. Thanks to the sacrifices of small business owners everywhere, and the U.S. taxpayers, Jeff Bezos of the Amazon family fortune was recently able to realize his lifelong dream of going to space.

For all their wealth, however, the world’s wealthiest people still don’t have everything they want.

Not quite.

They have more mansions, yachts, luxury cars, private jets, and exclusive travel opportunities than they could ever use. No outrageously-priced novelty is too expensive; no handbag, pair of shoes, or sports franchise is too rich for their blood.

There isn’t anything they can’t pay someone else to do for them. An army of accountants, lawyers, assistants, aides, travel agents, personal shoppers, chefs, fitness trainers, stylists and physicians wait at their beck and call.

No pleasure or whim is denied them- at least, not because they can’t afford it.

But there is something the world’s wealthiest really want that they just can’t have. It’s something money has never been able to buy, and the wealthiest people in history, pretty much all of them, have gone to their graves still wanting, and lacking, the exact same thing.

More life. More youth. More time to enjoy their unimaginable bounty.

You can’t take it with you.

Which is why the world’s wealthiest are already doing everything they can to prolong their lives, vitality and health. Some take handfuls of expensive, designer vitamins, mineral and nutritional supplements daily; others try radical fitness programs, punishing regimens, even extreme fasting. There are gene therapies, even advanced ones. There are cosmetic surgeries galore and clinical procedures Cleopatra and Helen of Troy might have killed for, had they lived to see advanced age.

But one need only turn on the television, crack open a magazine, or breeze on over to TMZ to discern the terrible truth; none of that stuff is working. Not really. Otherwise our favorite wealthy celebrities wouldn’t have aged as they have. For some iconic octogenarians, it obviously isn’t for lack of trying.

The problem is that scientists still don’t quite understand why we age at all. Much has been discovered about the aging process in past decades; how our telomeres shorten as we age and other indicators of aging at the cellular level.

But why we age at all is still very much a mystery, much like the mystery of why we need sleep.

There are any number of good theories. Some of the world’s most brilliant scientists have been eagerly dedicating themselves to this exciting and potentially lucrative frontier of medicine in recent years.

Unexpectedly, it might have been COVID-19 which finally delivered a breakthrough.

A team of Israeli scientists from the Teachnion-Israel Institute of Technology may have just inadvertently discovered how to reverse the cell aging process.

In studying the impact of COVID-19 on elderly patients, Professor Doron Melamed and Dr. Reem Dowery and their team say they have discovered the key to reversing immune system aging in the human body.

Their findings, which were only recently published, are still being examined by the scientific community at large and more research is sure to take place along these new lines in the years to come.

But for now, the elusive possibility of reversing the human aging process seems within reach. Only a few short decades ago, most scientists agreed that the human genome would never be mapped in their lifetime. What might the next breakthrough be?

Whenever it eventually occurs, it is important to note that there is a silver lining in the wealth gap; there is a very good reason we shouldn’t “eat the rich”, whatever the nouveau communists say these days.

In a free market, the wealthiest individuals produce a trickle-down effect that far exceeds the money they pay in taxes, even considering the world’s wealthiest pay more in a single year of taxes than most people will make in their entire lives.

It costs money to invent things; it takes capital for breakthroughs in medical science, as in most sciences. It takes experimentation and research, and that takes funding.

A great deal of funding.

Thanks to technologies pioneered on behalf of wealthy interests, be it individuals investing or corporations, the human life span has already been doubled- and in a relatively short time.

Evolutionary biologists currently date human anatomical modernity to about 200,000 years, give or take. For 199,900 of those years, the average human lifespan was around 35 years. Over the last 100+ years, that lifespan doubled.

And that’s to say nothing of the other trickle down benefits the wealthy have inadvertently bestowed on the rest of us; electricity and indoor plumbing to name two personal favorites.

Building an electrical grid, not to mention investing in such a crazy scheme, was an astronomically expensive endeavor. Only the very wealthiest people could afford it- at first. Once the infrastructure was created, extending the benefit became much cheaper.

If you look around your home or office today, you will see advanced labor-saving devices and luxuries once found only in the homes of the very wealthiest families; dishwashers and microwave ovens, garden bathtubs and garbage disposals, personal computers and flat-screen televisions.

When flat-screen plasma televisions were first introduced two decades ago, they cost $20,000. Today, they cost less than $1,000. The first computers were equally unaffordable- not to mention they took up an entire room and required another room full of equally-expensive cooling equipment.

In our free-market, capitalist system, the makers and sellers of these miracles must recoup their startup costs- which oftentimes are extraordinary. So they need someone’s $20,000 for a television. But they want someone’s $10,000, too; and even someone’s $5,000 if they can get it.

So immediately, the manufacturers of these desirable goods- and their copycats- get to work trying to produce the new technology for less.

Thanks to this system, working people of average income all over the world are able to own cars, fly in airplanes, and enjoy the many health benefits of indoor plumbing.

Someday, thanks to this superb, if imperfect, system- and the efforts of Israeli scientists- working class people of average means may be able to live longer, healthier lives.

Just like the wealthiest one percent of the one percent.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)