Although the vast majority of these efforts remain in preclinical development, several have recently entered FDA trials and could potentially hit the market in a few years. Some are already appearing on the gray market, raising concerns that hucksters are peddling anti-aging snake oil. Others, meanwhile, worry what might happen if these drugs actually do deliver on their promise: Will poor young people be coerced into selling their blood to elderly billionaires? Will magical anti-aging pills become the province of the Park Avenue and Hollywood rich, like facelifts, hair plugs and botox injections? Will the rest of us senile peasants be forced to watch them age backwards as we are left to wither and die?
If scientists are ultimately successful, hacking aging will raise troubling ethical questions, particularly when it comes to young blood. In the wake of those early papers, the popular television series Silicon Valley featured an episode in which a well-heeled dotcom billionaire had his own “blood boy” follow him around to provide transfusions. “The idea that only old, rich people can afford young blood is just uncomfortable,” Barzilai says.