The dream of Eternal Youth is a dream probably as old as humanity. People have tried to obtain it with prayers, with lifestyles, with magic, and even with science. So far, there has never been any credible approach that can make us young again.
But if you prefer to follow the hype and have thousands of dollars to waste, US company Ambrosia has something for you – plasma therapy. The company, funded by controversial billionaire Peter Thiel, plans to provide a transfusion of blood from young donors to older individuals to keep them healthy. The start-up operates in six US cities: Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Fransico, Tampa, Omaha, and Houston. A New York clinic was also mentioned in an interview with Business Insider a few months ago. The transfusion will put you a pretty penny back. You can get one liter of young blood for $8,000 or two liters for $12,000.
The procedure is questionable for several reasons. Ethically, this enterprise is literally baby boomers and Gen X people harvesting the blood of millennials for alleged health benefits. The donors don’t know they are giving their blood to such a scheme. The company states they don’t work with the donors themselves, so the company is probably making a profit on young people donating blood in the hopes of saving lives rather than for rich people afraid of getting wrinkles. Late-stage capitalism, am I right?
Scientifically, the whole idea of young blood being beneficial is based on a 2013 study in mice that has not been reproduced in humans. The setup is known as parabiosis, where a young mouse is grafted to an old mouse and shares their circulatory system for four weeks. The findings in mice are quite limited. It was seen to improve heart conditions but did nothing to reverse other age-related diseases affecting muscles. And in a human trial on just 18 people with Alzheimer’s, there were no differences in cognitive ability between pre- or post-transfusion patients.
It is also unclear if the young blood has benefits in itself or if it is the old blood that has negative effects and by being diluted those effects are lessened. The cause of these improvements in mice is still uncertain and currently no finding in humans has been encouraging. Against all available evidence, Ambrosia has touted excellent results in a clinical trial they ran but decided not to publish. As you do.