Blood

Draining Millennials of Their Blood to Rejuvenate Boomers

Alkahest's vampire cure for aging experiment yields equivocal results

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Lightpoet/Dreamstime

The California anti-aging therapy startup Alkahest launched a small clinical trial back in 2016. Subjects suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease received four weekly infusions either of plasma—the liquid, cell-free part of blood—obtained from donors 18 to 30 years old, or of a placebo (a saline solution).

The trial was inspired by heterochronic parabiosis, a technique in which scientists grafted young and old mice together so that the animals shared their circulatory systems. The result was that the older mice's muscles, livers, hearts, brains, and other organs and tissues were rejuvenated significantly.

In my 2015 article "The Vampire Cure for Aging," I explained that Alkahest wanted

to see if infusing blood plasma from young people into patients suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease will improve their cognition. The company expects to enroll 18 patients in the coming trial, half of whom will receive infusions of human blood plasma donated by men under age 30 once weekly for four weeks. The other half will receive saline. The trial will chiefly focus on the safety of the treatment and compliance by participants. Additionally, researchers will compare both groups to see if those treated with blood plasma perform better on a number of tests for Alzheimer's disease and if changes suggestive of cognitive improvement can be identified in their brains.

Alkahest is now reporting the results of the trial at various scientific conferences. As it happens, the company was able to enroll only nine patients in the randomized double-blind portion of the trial while including nine others in the open-label portion, in which all the subjects received transfusions of young plasma. An analysis of assessments once all participants had been treated showed no significant changes in participants' mood or their performance on tests of cognition involving tasks such as memorizing lists or recalling recent events. However, on two of three different caregiver assessments of functional abilities such as making meals and shopping, participants showed statistically significant improvement.

Other researchers have pointed out that it is hard to draw conclusions from such a small trial that lasted for such a short time. In Science, neuroscientist Zaven Khachaturian observes that the positive effects reported by the caregivers could merely be a placebo effect: "[Patients] could feel better because somebody paid attention to them."

In any case, the company announced, "We look forward to advancing our lead clinical candidate, a proprietary plasma fraction, as a potential treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease." Their proprietary formulation will largely contain growth factors found in blood plasma.

Another California biomedical startup, Ambrosia, is running a "clinical trial" that transfuses plasma from people aged 16 to 25 into folks willing to pay $8,000 for the treatments. Some 600 people so far have reportedly signed up for the study. Since there is no placebo group, the company is reporting reductions in various blood biomarkers, including some associated with risks for cancer, cholesterol levels, and amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease.

In reporting on Ambrosia's anti-aging treatments, my colleague Mike Riggs recently asked, "Is It Wrong for Old People to Receive Blood Infusions From Teenagers?" As long as they're doing it voluntarily, my answer is no. Riggs further observed:

There are nearly a billion humans over the age of 60 on the planet today. There will be more than two billion of them by 2050. I hope to still be around then. I'm sure many critics of parabiosis hope to as well. If the tech bros of Silicon Valley want to offer up their bodies and their money in hopes of making that possible, why would any of us discourage them?

Why indeed?

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  1. “Marge, please, old people don’t need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.”

  2. Counterpoint: old people make a potent mulch.

  3. An analysis of assessments once all participants had been treated showed no significant changes in participants’ mood or their performance on tests of cognition involving tasks such as memorizing lists or recalling recent events. However, on two of three different caregiver assessments of functional abilities such as making meals and shopping, participants showed statistically significant improvement.

    If there is anything older people love it’s telling me the same F’ing story for the 90 billionth time. They like it almost as much as they like making meals and shopping. I don’t think they’d care that this doesn’t improve memory, in fact it lets them keep their justification for one of their favorites hobbies.

    1. It says “recalling *recent* events.”

  4. As a libertarian I used to set my orphans free at 16 armed only with a monocle and an empty carpet bag…. I will now keep them a while longer for their sweet rejuvinating plasma. Thanks for the tip Mr Bailey…

  5. How did they get the millennials out of their parents’ basement to conduct this trial?

    *ducks*

    1. Promised us welfare, art degrees, and video games.

  6. Why don’t you whiz bang scientists stop playing God?

    Old people are supposed to retire, wither, and die naturally, while soaking up bennies from the young through the feds, as Emperor God Roosevelt dictated.

  7. I see alchemy is alive and well. There ain’t gonna be no simple cure for aging, y’all. Diseases of old age have no cures in the blood of the young, because evolution did not select for traits that adress problems arising long after reproduction.

  8. The trial was inspired by heterochronic parabiosis, a technique in which scientists grafted young and old mice together so that the animals shared their circulatory systems.

    “Look guys, I know how you love to stitch animals together and toss them out the window to see what happens but there aren’t going to be a lot of teens willing to donate plasma in order to meet demand. How about you go back to the lab, isolate the relevant components, and come back when you’ve got a product we can market?”

    Didn’t we go through this with the ESC debate? What the fuck are ethics panels doing if not being a/the moderating voice of reason?

  9. Screw those old socialist Boomers. The sooner they all die, the sooner we can end government entitlements like social security.

    1. This is one of your less tethered-to-reality comments.

      1. #6, This is one of your less tethered-to-reality comments.

        1. You sure got me there! Copying and pasting my own comment back to me doesn’t make you look stupid and crazy at all!

            1. I do enough loving for all of us here.

  10. The next govt healthcare program will be to tax young people of their blood. It will be a progressive tax, in the sense that fat people will have to give more.

    After all, you didn’t build those blood cells. If not for the roads, the farm subsidies, the….

  11. Looks like when I donate plasma they might pay me more for it.

    1. I wish. Those places rip you off. I was getting like 40 dollars for plasma they would sell for 1000+.

      1. Scientist examining BUCS’s blood: “Strange, this plasma is completely exhausted, as if the donor had jerked all his vital essence away…”

        1. I told them. The problem is they tried to drain my main vein. Their mistake.

        2. On the other hand, BUCS’s plasma does impart certain immunities…

          1. …for those few who survive the procedure.

  12. I thought blood donation was already a thing. Or is it the *purpose* of the donation which is “problematic.”

    1. You can’t sell blood anymore I believe. Counts as an organ I believe.

      1. OK, it’s not like I read the article. You can’t sell the stuff?

        1. I believe you as a person cannot. The people that collect it do. Like red Cross sells it.

          Please, someone call me out it I’m wrong. But I believe this was true from my plasma selling days.

          1. I got snacks.

    2. The general rule-of-thumb is that the sale/exchange of human body parts shouldn’t be materially enriching folks. So donating blood gets you orange juice and maybe a t-shirt, but they can’t give you $500 a pint. You can donate a kidney or bone marrow, but you can’t sell it on the open market.

      So ethically-speaking, as long as this “treatment” is for bona fide illnesses (like Alzheimer’s or dementia) then it’s probably “okay”, but if it becomes a luxury (a more generic “anti-aging” treatment) then it’ll probably be in trouble.

      That said, a bunch of old folks sipping on the blood of young bucks to stay young forever? Probably too close to “Modest Proposal” and “Soylent Green” for most people.

      1. Eg, the Venezuelan approach to organ pricing.

  13. The only question at this point is whether California will kill us all by recreating Cyberdyne Systems or Umbrella Corporation first.

    1. I vote Umbrella, you get to fight them off with regular human weapons, with Cyberdine you need to get really lucky and lure the Terminator into some kind of manufacturing facility which has hydraulic presses or molten metal.

      1. Or dig a 15 foot deep hole, line it with concrete, and cover the top with boards and leaves.

        (Just don’t peek over the edge).

        1. I haven’t seen that movie, but I know that “peering into the hole to make sure the monster is dead” is, risk-wise, on the level of camp counselors having sex in the haunted swamp.

          1. I don’t believe anyone has ever tried the “dig a hole” approach to Terminator extermination in a movie.

            Of course, the liquid-metal one could probably just extend itself out. But even if you didn’t have a lid to slide over it or vat of liquid concrete to pour into it, any version of reality in which Skynet could mass-produce liquid metal Terminators would almost certainly have the technological advancement needed to allow human insurgents to manufacture hand-held lasers capable of frying it. So if the liquid-metal robot apocalypse is really upon us, we’ll probably have the Dashboard-In-Hot-Sun 9000s needed to cook us some bots.

            1. “Fire can’t melt metal that’s already liquid!”

  14. Stealing blood from children sounds like

    [dons sunglasses]

    A Modest Proposal

    1. [dons orphan-draining fangs]

  15. So Ron, what you’re telling us is that Alex Jones was right.

    1. What ever you do, never order frog legs at a restaurant.

      1. You got something against gay frogs?

  16. Eh, if this works out then folks better hope that they can isolate what it is about “young blood” that’s helping out, and find a way to synthetically create it.

    Otherwise, you’ve basically got vampires: a super-exclusive club that stays young forever by sucking on blood from young folks. And we know how those stories all end.

      1. It seems Radiohead’s song title has two words too many.

  17. “Another California biomedical startup, Ambrosia”

    Really oughta be called Nectar, technically.

  18. We get their FICA taxes, we might as well get their blood too.

  19. The best outcome if it’s successful will be to find out what the factors are that cause the effects, and figure out to how to synthesize them. Barring that, give young people the option to avoid FICA taxes, if they’re willing to sign up to donate plasma on a regular basis, and seniors forgoing SocSec payments in exchange for blood treatments. Someone in authority will think of that, or some author will write a dystopia about it.

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