Young blood transfusion: FDA warns against anti-aging treatment

People will do almost anything to preserve their youth, be it anti-aging or nutritional supplements.

An improbable practice that is becoming increasingly visible is the ability to pay for the blood of young people, with the belief that these transfusions could help fight against aging.

Billionaires like Peter Thiel, a venture capital specialist, have expressed interest in these processes. The treatments, which have gained some aura from the mythology of the tech world, were also featured as a screenplay on HBO Silicon Valley.

This practice has now been passed on to the Food and Drug Administration, which issued a statement on February 19 to urge consumers not to take any.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 14.6 million blood transfusions are performed each year in the United States. Plasma, the liquid part of the blood, contains proteins that help to coagulate blood; it has long been recognized as a treatment for traumatized patients, as well as for patients who are ill or under medical treatment whose blood does not coagulate.

But the FDA warned that consumers should avoid transfusions that claim to use plasma from younger people for anti-aging reasons. Although some studies suggest that these transfusions could fight diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, the FDA claims that these claims are not proven.

"There is no proven clinical benefit from plasma infusion from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product," the statement said. "The declared uses of these products should not be considered safe or effective. We strongly discourage consumers from taking this therapy outside of clinical trials, under the supervision of an appropriate institutional review committee and under the supervision of the regulation. "

The FDA also believes that this practice poses safety concerns. Regarding plasma, he notes, there is no "information on the appropriate dosage for treatment". In addition, he adds "large volumes of plasma […] may be associated with significant risks, including infectious, allergic, respiratory and cardiovascular risks. "

Although the FDA has not designated any single entity, it has simply described young blood service providers as "unscrupulous players," including Ambrosia, a young startup based in San Francisco. It has been around since 2016 and now has additional locations in Los Angeles; Omaha, Nebraska; Houston, Texas; and Tampa, Florida.

The company, founded by Jesse Karmazin, a 33-year-old Stanford medical school graduate, is claiming $ 8,000 for a liter of blood collected from people aged 16 to 25, or $ 12,000 for two liters.

On February 19, the company's website indicated that, according to the FDA announcement, it had "terminated patient treatment." Vox has solicited feedback and will update it as we hear more about it.

In an interview with Code Conference in 2017, Karmazin said 100 customers would have had to pay for the blood his company buys from blood banks. He pointed out that not all of his clients are tech giants, and technically anyone over 35 is eligible for this type of transfusion. According to Business Insider, Karmazin was planning to open a clinic in New York in 2019 and Ambrosia had a long waiting list.

Karmazin would have started Ambrosia after reading studies on mice and a process called parabiosis, which involved the joining of veins. A study conducted in 2013 showed that some symptoms of aging could be reversed in older mice when they were receiving blood from younger mice. The study was not replicated and Karmazin said that his company does not claim to cure aging. But he told MIT's Technology Review in 2017: "I think animal and retrospective data is compelling and I want this treatment to be available to people."

After Ambrosia conducted a clinical trial in 2017, Karmazin said the results were "really positive". He also told Quartz that participants felt more energetic. But health professionals call it "the scientific equivalent of false information". Two researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, who have published their own research on mouse blood transfusions, also described Ambrosia as "dangerous."

"They could most likely inflict bodily harm," said Business Insider Irina Conboy, one of the researchers. "You are imbued with the blood of someone else and it does not fit in. This triggers a strong immune response."

The FDA is now asking people to report whether they have had "adverse events related to plasma treatment from young donors for reasons of aging or related indications."

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