A clinical trial called “Ambrosia” seeks to discover the long-sought Fountain of Youth – and some scientists believe they’ve found it in the blood of young people.
People are getting transfusions of “young blood” to slow aging.
business “experiment” is taking place in Monterrey, California, right on the edge of Silicon Valley.
Ambrosia, the vampiric startup concerned, is run by a 32-year-old doctor called Jesse Karmazin, who bills $8,000 (£6,200) a pop for participation in what he has dubbed a “study”. So far, he has 600 clients, with a median age of 60. The blood is collected from local blood banks, then separated and combined – it takes multiple donors to make one package. (source)
Although the results of the “trial,” which has been ongoing since at least 2017, have not been published, Karmizan is so certain of his science that he intends to open a business selling transfusions of “young blood.” (You know, since charging a participant $8000 to be part of a “study” isn’t a business.)
Dr. Karmazin, who plans to open a business selling young blood, says patients who’ve had it say they feel amazing, and he says he’s seen evidence of reversing the aging process in rats.
“Their brains are younger, their hearts. Their hair, if it was gray, it turns dark again,” he said. (source)
Studies going back decades show the regenerative effects of one organism being joined to another. In the 17th century, Robert Boyle – he of Boyle’s Law – suggested “replacing the blood of the old with the blood of the young”. (source)
And Ambrosia isn’t the only vampiristic game around.
Ambrosia has some competition on the East Coast. A society gala in West Palm Beach, Florida took place last year to scare a bunch of 60-somethings into dropping some cash to take part an another “experiment” run by Dr. Dipnarine Maharaj. And by some cash, I mean up to $285,000 apiece.
Then there’s the West Palm Beach symposium, held to recruit participants for a study testing what happens when aging people get infusions of plasma (the fluid part of blood packed with signaling proteins and other molecules but no red or white cells) from young people who’ve taken a drug meant to activate their immune system. Maharaj, a Scottish-trained hematologist and oncologist with a flair for salesmanship, plans to run the 30-patient trial at the private practice he owns in Boynton Beach, Fla.
The study, which he describes as a Phase 1/Phase 2 trial, is a first-in-human test, which means that it is designed to evaluate only whether the experimental therapy is safe. But in his remarks at the symposium, Maharaj didn’t hesitate to make bold promises about what the treatment could do to ameliorate the frailty that results from getting older. (source)
The irony of the so-called “young blood project” being introduced within 250 miles of Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth was not overlooked.
“Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to announce that Florida is truly the fountain of youth,” Maharaj told the crowd inside while he talked up his clinical trial. (source)
Who is getting these blood transfusions?
All sorts of people are apparently jumping on the young blood bandwagon.
“There are pretty much people from most states, people from overseas, people from Europe and Australia,” Dr. Jesse Karmazin said. (source)
According to a report from 2017, two-thirds of the participants in this study are men.
The idea has become faddish in tech circles. While anti-ageing products usually hold more appeal with women, two-thirds of the more than 65 participants who have signed up for this trial are men. Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley sitcom recently parodied the notion, with arch-tech guru Gavin Belson relying on a “blood boy” following him around to donate pints of sticky red at inopportune moments.
That fictionalised account may well be based on the real-life adventures of Peter Thiel, the PayPal founder, who has expressed interest in having transfusions (Gawker even reported that he was spending $40,000 (£31,000) a quarter on regular transfusions from 18-year-olds). He, and various other thinkers who radiate out towards the death-evading “transhumanist” movement, are fascinated by “heterochronic parabiosis” – the sewing together of two animals in order to create a living chimera. (source)
That’s some seriously creepy stuff and I’m sure the things we know are only the tip of the creepy iceberg.
Even Google is getting on board the antiaging bandwagon.
The business of promising youth to people who are aging is nothing new. For as long as humans have been in situations where they weren’t constantly fighting for mere survival, many of those humans have tried to delay the inevitable.
But now, with advances in science, it seems that the lines of science fiction and reality are getting blurred. And there’s a lot of money to be made.
…lately, big players and investors have also spotted an opportunity: Google’s parent company has invested heavily in its secretive anti-aging spinout, called Calico. A startup called Celularity last month raised $250 million to try to use postpartum placentas to delay the aging process. And a company called Elysium Health has rallied Nobel Prize winners to sell a $50-per-month supplement aimed at boosting levels of a molecule known as NAD+ that’s hypothesized to play a role in promoting longevity, though not without prompting rebuke from some prominent doctors. (source)
But the question is, are these anti-aging entrepreneurs selling promising therapies or false hope? And if it works, at what cost?
And it isn’t just transfusions, either.
Ethan Huff wrote about something called “vampire facials” on his report on this topic.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the use of young blood in anti-aging therapy is still in the testing phase. These same reports indicate that the therapy is already being used as part of so-called “vampire facials” to treat wrinkles, as well as joint and tissue injuries.
Platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP, involves siphoning blood from a patient’s own body, only to apply it topically as a type of healing “serum” to address a variety of health concerns, including the damaging effects of the aging process.
In some cases, “vampire facials” are being applied to patients’ heads in an attempt to regrow hair.
“We can actually use your own blood to stimulate the body,” claims Dr. Hooman Khorasani, who heads the Division of Dermatologic and Cosmetic Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System.
While current research on this particular application is ongoing, Dr. Khorasani says that what’s already been uncovered “looks very positive.”
“There’s still a lot of unknowns and factors we don’t know when we’re actually getting another person’s growth factors and nutrients injected in us,” he admitted. (source)
We’re living in a world where something we would have mocked as the creepiest science fiction is becoming reality.
Is there any actual science behind this?
Actually, there is. Studies from both Harvard and Stanford have indicated some positive results.
A Harvard mouse study in 2014 seems to be what revived interest in sucking the blood out of young people for the use of old people.
In recent years, researchers studying mice found that giving old animals blood from young ones can reverse some signs of aging, and last year one team identified a growth factor in the blood that they think is partly responsible for the antiaging effect on a specific tissue—the heart. Now, that group has shown this same factor can also rejuvenate muscle and the brain.
“This is the first demonstration of a rejuvenation factor” that is naturally produced, declines with age, and reverses aging in multiple tissues, says Harvard University stem cell researcher Amy Wagers. (source)
Other scientists say that the transfusions of youthful blood can help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
There has also been encouraging Alzheimer’s research using young blood at Stanford University.
“We found that it was safe and feasible to administer infusions of young plasma weekly,” Dr. Sharon Shaw, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Stanford, said.
Dr. Shaw is a researcher who says they have seen evidence of improvement in functional ability.
“It’s all very exciting that there can be components in blood that can be healing,” Dr. Shaw said. (source)
It’s as interesting as it is creepy. Who wouldn’t donate some of their blood to help out a beloved relative who was fading away from Alzheimer’s?
What could possibly go wrong?
This is a question I ask entirely too much when writing articles about new technology lately. It seems that our “progress” may be outstripping our ethics in many cases. Some of the things I see going wrong?
- Young people could basically turn into walking blood bags for rich old people who want to live forever.
- We don’t know if there are any long-term issues with frequent transfusions.
- New diseases that aren’t yet tested for could be present in the blood of donors.
- You can have allergic reactions to blood transfusions, even if they are the right type. These reactions can be as minor as some hives or as serious as death from anaphylactic shock.
- You can have an acute immune hemolytic reaction, which means your body attacks the red blood cells as the enemy. This can result in chest pain, nausea, chills, fever, and lower back pain.
- Infections can occur at the site of the transfusion.
- Transfusion-related acute lung injury is a rare, but potentially fatal response to a transfusion. It starts out with a fever and low blood pressure and can permanently damage your lungs.
- HIV, Hepatitis B and C, West Nile Virus, and Zika can all be passed through a blood transfusion. Although the blood is screened, there is still a slim possibility of something being missed.
The idea of living forever has been around – well – forever. And so far, it has been but a dream. But it seems like lately interest is sparking up again.
The advances of science are incredible in many ways. The ethics of this seem to be a line that moves wherever the scientists want it to go. And if you think overpopulation and shortages of resources are issues now, imagine if we disturbed the natural order of things by extending life for decades longer.
What do you think about this vampire science?
Do you think the blood of young people can stop or slow aging? Would you ever get a young blood transfusion to feel or look younger? Has science gone too far yet again?