Magic Pills, Machine-Learning Skincare, and the Future of Health


Technology has always promised a better future … eventually. Somehow the real breakthroughs have always seemed to be just around the corner. But somehow, when we weren’t quite paying attention, the future actually arrived. Thanks to forward-thinking researchers calling on advances in genomics, artificial intelligence, food science, and drug hacking, a more resilient, enlightened, and cognitively-, physically-, and sexually-enhanced human already walks among us. (And her skin is amazing.) Here, eight exciting new health technologies — and where they’re heading next.

Anti-aging in a pill

What it is: Self-described by its MIT creators as “the world’s first cellular health product informed by genomics,” Basis by Elysium Health is a mail-order daily supplement that’s been making waves in the rapidly emerging field of life-extension science. The claim is not immortality but simply the possibility of extending one’s vital years, by putting off of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other afflictions of age.

Quackery? Hard to say: Though the supplement is some 25 years in the making, it’s been human-tested for less than five, including on Elysium Health cofounder Leonard Guarente, who also serves as the director of MIT’s center for aging research. That said, the company has an impressive roster of Nobel Prize winners on its scientific advisory board and has attracted more than $25 million in funding.

What’s the sell: Two pills a day purportedly target DNA repair, cellular detoxification, energy production, and protein function by converting nicotinamide riboside into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme critical to metabolism that diminishes with age. While the real test of any antiaging elixir is increased longevity, many users report immediate benefits that include better sleep, speedy injury recovery, and the mysterious disappearance of those rough elbow patches, with few noticeable side effects.

What’s next: The company is said to be working on products that target brain and musculoskeletal health.

Bionic hearing

What it is: The world is getting noisier.

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Credit: Kory Tung

Credit: Kory Tung