Reversing and eliminating aging has always been one of the true Holy Grails of medical science. Like the search for the rumored Grail, the journey to eliminate aging will be a difficult one– and there is some doubt as to whether it is actually achievable.
But one startup seems like it may have cracked the problem, and is now beginning tests. Ambrosia, a startup based in Monterey, California, is starting a clinical trial to rejuvenate people over 35 by injecting them with young people’s blood.
The company is piggybacking on research, such as the 2014 studies by Harvard Stem Cell Institute researcher Amy Wagers, that suggest linking the circulatory system of young mice to old mice facilitate rejuvenation in the elderly mice. This kind of surgery is called parabiosis, and has existed since the 1860’s.
In these studies, the researchers surgically sewed the skin of the two mice together, exposing the old circulatory system to young blood. The studies suggest a correlation between the procedure and improvement of the appearance and function of the weakened, enlarged hearts of older mice.
In their trial, Ambrosia will not be using whole blood but only plasma transfusions. Participants in the trial will undergo plasma transfusions from donor less than 25 years old. The company will be testing the blood before, and 1 month after, the procedure for over 100 blood biomarkers.
But Thiel is not the only party interested in the trial. Ambrosia is experiencing push back, with critics questioning the methodology and benefits of the transfusions.
Critics point out the pay-to-participate model of the trial, likening it to unproven stem-cell clinics cropping up all over the US. Participants will be paying $8,000, which will supposedly cover the cost of plasma from a blood bank, lab tests, the ethics review, insurance, and an administrative fee.
Another point of contention is the way the trial is being run. There is no control group in the trial and no placebos will be used. Also, the participants don’t have to be sick or elderly to join; all they need is to be 35 and above and have $8,000. There is also the fact that there are no well-accepted biomarkers for aging in the blood.
“There’s just no clinical evidence [that the treatment will be beneficial], and you’re basically abusing people’s trust and the public excitement around this,” says neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray, one of the scientists who led the 2014 study.