Back in the early 2000’s, a group of young scientists began stitching live mice together in a bid to revive a century-old procedure known as parabiosis. Their aim was to test whether young blood could be used to rejuvenate the old.
Though these initial experiments were gruesome, they did gain some intriguing results and reignited theories about the fountain of youth possibly flowing through our veins.
The scientists discovered rejuvenating qualities in the young mice’s blood, the key ingredient lying in the plasma or yellow liquid component of the blood. This plasma is packed full of proteins and contains compounds that indicate how the different cells of the body are functioning. Young blood often contains components that can stimulate growth and repair, whereas older blood usually carries more signs of tissue damage.
Enter Elevian: A dystopian start-up co-founded by a group of 5 Harvard scientists now focused on further exploring how young blood might enliven the elderly.
The primary protein they are interested in is known as GDF11. Elevian states they want to use it to “develop new medicines to restore regenerative capacity, with the potential to prevent and treat many age-related diseases.”
According to Lee Rubin, a neuroscientist at Harvard and one of Elevian’s five scientific co-founders, this type of medicine has the potential to be used to treat any disease brought on by old age.
Rubin, alongside stem cell biologist, Amy Wagner, discovered that young blood can initiate the formation of new neurons in the brain.
Wagner was also part of the group of Harvard researchers that discovered that young blood could help reverse age-related thickening of the heart walls.
In 2016, a company called Ambrosia (funded by Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal co-founder who also funds psilocybin research) was the first to trial human transfusions. They involved injecting young blood plasma into older patients for a “modest” fee of $8000 USD a pop.
Jesse Karmazin, Ambrosia’s founder, released the results of the trial last May, stating that “they saw durable, but not permanent, effects.”
Though there may still be a long way to go, it looks as though growing old could soon be a peril of the past – provided you’ve got the money and wherewithal required to live on someone else’s plasma.