The race to put out the first life-prolonging pill
No matter how many green smoothies you drink to stay healthy, there's nothing you can do to keep yourself from getting older. Simple aging is the biggest factor causing many of the diseases that ultimately do us in -- from cancer, to heart disease, to diabetes. That stark reality is what's behind the race to develop drugs and supplements that can basically "trick" the body into thinking it's younger than it is, and thus reduce the risk for disease.
According to Bloomberg, pharmaceutical giant Novartis is currently pursuing a handful of drugs that can restore specific physiological functions that typically diminish with age. For example, one would potentially reverse muscle "wasting," another would reverse aging cartilage in joints that causes pain and limited mobility, and another is designed to restore what are known as "hair cells" in the ear canal, which die off over time, leading to hearing loss.
There are also a handful of startups developing so-called "supplements" that aren't hyping themselves up as a cure for aging, but claim they can make you feel younger. The best-known of the bunch is Elysium Health, co-founded by a renowned MIT scientist and backed by six Nobel Prize-winning scientists. Its product, a daily dose of pills it calls Basis, is packed with a combination of naturally occurring compounds and antioxidants associated with longevity, which it claims can restore muscle tissue, improve brain function, and increase energy levels.
However, since the FDA doesn't technically consider aging a "disease" and the company isn't touting Basis as an anti-aging drug (or even claiming it will help explicitly extend your life in any way), it doesn't need to be evaluated by the FDA and doesn't require a prescription -- much in the same way vitamins don't. All you need to get in on the action is $50 and a shipping address, and you can get your very own beautifully branded "fountain of youth" capsules, no questions asked.
There haven't been enough long-term human trials on people taking Elysium's product to truly understand how effective it is. But the fact that an MIT biologist and several other big-shots in the science world are staking their reputations on it is at least somewhat encouraging. However, there are many other burgeoning anti-aging treatments that -- while far more complex than simply popping a pill -- may soon make it easy to turn back time.