Wonks and worrywarts need not fret about the future so much as about the present.
Scott Carney, the author of 2011's The Red Market, which explores semi-licit and illicit human tissue trafficking, thinks these young studies and the provisional nature of their admittedly scant results should block most people from pursuing sketchy, early young blood treatments today."This isn't the sort of thing that will create a strong market force," he says. "It's an alternative therapy at best at the moment."Yet many people, eager for any sort of panacea for aging, have jumped aboard the young blood bandwagon with vigor. Alkahest got an early shot of funding from the family of a Chinese billionaire with Alzheimer's who reportedly regained some cognitive ability and vivacity after a blood transfusion from a young donor. They've also received a landslide of interest in their work, including from those interested in getting involved, or getting their loved ones in a trial.A lack of proven viability or fully developed treatments has never stopped such eager beavers from getting their hands on what they see as a magic bullet or final hope. Case in point: There are numerous stem cell clinics across America, which use the guise of conducting human trials (that never yield published results) to offer patients absolutely unproven-to-bogus for-profit therapies."There're people who don't even claim it's a trial," says pharmaceutical executive and anti-aging wonk John Furber. "There are people who just claim it's a [legitimate] therapy" to clients.
There's still a lot we don't understand about the therapeutic potential of young blood.
It's already possible for the super-wealthy to receive young blood treatments, if they're willing to shell out some serious cash and have a willing doctor.
Those with a futurist bent can also hold out for the utopian nanobot world of tomorrow Furber dreams of: "You might [eventually be able to] inject somebody with nano-robots that would go in and scoop up these bad factors and either chew them into little bits that could be digested or excreted into poop," he says, "then get some young plasma if you need it," or a manufactured good protein cocktail, as well. "That's not available yet, but it's foreseeable with current technology."Whether due to utopian thinking or desperation, there will always be someone eager, willing, and able to jump the gun on a new cure and give it a go in a dangerous, unproven, and uncertain context. Young blood is no different. Considering the ease of accessing blood as opposed to stem cells or an experimental drug, and the common experience of pain and stress caused by the degenerative effectives of aging—whether in yourself, or watching them in someone you love—it might be easier to push folks over the edge to experiment with young blood outside of traditional channels.For now, the field is so young and bizarre that only folks like Thiel are likely to be probing around its edges. But as more research emerges in the coming years, the dangerous experimental circle will likely grow wider. Before that happens, we have to acknowledge and contend with the ethical and social dilemmas of a world in which we treat aging with the blood of youths. Because we're already at that world's illicit back door.
The wisest course of action for anyone interested in young blood's anti-aging properties would be to sit back and wait.