The desire to regain one’s youthfulness is nothing new. Sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth in Florida. People today regularly dye their gray hair and get Botox to reduce wrinkles. What lengths would you go to in order to stay young and vibrant? Overhaul your diet and exercise every day? Give up smoking and other vices? How about injecting the blood of teenagers into your veins?
That’s exactly what some wealthy individuals are doing in the hopes of warding off the effects of ageing. And they’re paying US$8,000 a pop to do so.
Dr. Jess Karmazin of the Ambrosia clinic in San Francisco, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., specializes in what he calls the “young blood treatment.” Clients receive .66 gallons of blood harvested from donors aged 16 to 25.
Specifically, patients are injected with blood plasma, which is the light-yellow liquid that carries the white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets throughout the body. Older people produce less healthy plasma proteins and molecules, so theoretically injecting them with teenage plasma will improve their circulatory system. This is notable because a breakdown in the circulatory system could lead to high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, strokes and other health issues.
Ambrosio launched in 2016 and touted its service as a study. Patients have no guarantee that the process will produce definitive results. Prior to treatment, participants must submit to 150 different blood tests. They must do an additional 150 tests following the treatment. Local blood banks collect the blood from multiple donors, and it is separated and combined to make one package, reports The Guardian.
About 600 clients—averaging age 60—use Ambrosia’s service. Interestingly, two-thirds of the participants involved in the company’s clinical trial are men seeking the fountain of youth.
Blood harvesting has a certain appeal to those in Silicon Valley, including PayPal founder Peter Thiel. In 2015, he expressed interest in this type of blood transfusion. “I’m looking into parabiosis stuff … where they [injected] the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. … I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored,” he told Inc. magazine.
One (unsubstantiated) claim even alleged that Thiel dropped $40,000 on blood transfusions from teenagers.
There is some science behind the young blood transfusion fad, including a 2014 Harvard study that found older mice injected with the plasma of younger mice had better memory and improved learning abilities. Young mice injected with older blood appeared did not fare as well.
But how this research applies to humans is still in question. Many scientists are unimpressed with Ambrosia’s “study” due to its lack of a control group and absence of randomized data. Currently, only those who can afford the transfusions have participated.
According to Karmazin, 32, a surprising number of patients have experienced significant improvements in protein health, which combats inflammation and is good for the brain. He claims participants have experienced a 20 percent drop in carcinoembryonic antigens and amyloid levels, which are proteins that contribute to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. But the biggest benefit appears to be improved sleep, which often plagues older people. Good sleep plays a critical role in memory, learning, metabolism, immune function, and so on.
Would you pay thousands of dollars to get teenage blood pumped into your veins if it meant staving off old age?