It sounds like something straight out of a horror movie, but can the blood of a young person actually make an older person (“older” being over 35 for the purposes of this study; we know, bear with us) healthier? There might actually be some method to this monster madness!
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According to new research, the blood of young animals has powerful rejuvenating effects when transferred into the blood of older ones. The evidence is strong enough to justify clinical trials using humans instead of animals.
Scientists have been conducting parabiotic experiments since the mid-1800s, which basically involves surgically joining two organisms together so they share a circulatory system. (Yikes, very Frankenstein’s monster.) After recent reports on the success of a rejuvenating procedure called parabiosis in mice, two related trials are currently taking place in which young blood is being transfused into older people in the hope it may help fight diseases — Alzheimer’s, for instance — linked to the aging process.
In recent years researchers have become convinced that when young blood is infused into the old, the elderly experience rejuvenating effects, while no positive benefits for the young have been observed — when it comes to mice, at least.
Mouse experiments have demonstrated this relationship in liver cells and the nervous and muscular systems. The old mice showed improvements; the younger, not so much. While it’s still unclear exactly how it all works, researchers are excited about this mice research translating to humans, so there are currently two trials being conducted infusing blood from young humans into older humans.
The first is being done by a company called Alkahest, which is planning on giving blood from young donors to 18 people with Alzheimer’s. Apparently the company chose people with the disease because they are already getting blood transfusions, and the company wants to prove the procedure is safe and that there could be mental benefits as well.
The second and more controversial trial is being conducted by a biotech startup called Ambrosia, which is actually charging people over age 35 a cool $8,000 to be infused with the blood of people under age 25. Generally, people don’t pay to be guinea pigs in medical trials, and several are given a placebo to stabilize results, but not in this case. Apparently there are lots of eager volunteers, with founder Jesse Karmazin recently telling New Scientist that initial results have been promising.
“Whatever is in young blood is causing changes that appear to make the aging process reverse,” he said. Since August 2016 the company has reportedly treated 70 people and seen improvements in biomarkers that can be linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. These results are preliminary and haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so it’s still iffy as to how the study is going to pan out. Some industry folks — such as Stanford immunologist Tony Wyss-Coray, who is conducting the Alkahest study — are referring to it as “the scientific equivalent of fake news.”
Should we expect to be seeing young blood infusions at our local med spas anytime soon? Tim Cross, science correspondent for The Economist magazine, recently told Marketplace.org that it’s not so likely, because there is a big difference between a blood transfusion and parabiosis.
“If you try and do something that’s a bit closer to blood transfusions — because obviously you don’t want to be thinking about stitching human beings together — it seems to do something, but doesn’t have quite the same level of benefits as the sort of full-on treatment does,” Cross explains. “I think these human trials are kind of a shot in the dark. I mean, it may be that they work, but I think you know it would be kind of impressive if they did.”
What Do YOU Think?
How do you feel about parabiosis? Would you ever get transfused with young blood? Do you think procedures like these are the future of anti-aging?