Young blood transfusion
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Young blood transfusion refers to transfusing blood specifically from a young person into an older one with the intention of creating a health benefit. The scientific community currently views the practice as essentially pseudoscientific, with comparisons to snake oil. There are also concerns of harm. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in 2019, cautioned "consumers against receiving young donor plasma infusions" stating that they are an "unproven treatment".
Experiments at Stanford University on pairs of old and young rodents placed into parabiosis suggest that the circulation of blood from young mice seems to invigorate older mice. Parabiosis experiments are difficult to generalize, as the circulatory systems of the mice are fully joined and it is unclear whether the benefits come from the sharing of blood or the older mouse's access to the younger mouse's organs. A study conducted at UC Berkeley found that blood from older mice hurt younger mice, while older mice were not benefited by the blood of younger mice.
In experiments like this, researchers found that some of these mice died quickly (11 out of 69 in one experiment) for reasons the scientists could not explain, but described as possibly some form of rejection. Amy Wagers, a researcher who coauthored several mouse studies on young blood transfusion, has said that her papers do not provide a scientific basis for some of the existing human trials.
Evidence from two large studies in 2017 showed that the transfusion of blood from younger donors to older people led to outcomes that were either no different from, or led to worse outcomes than, blood from older donors. Research on blood transfusion outcomes has been complicated by the lack of careful characterization of the transfusion products that have been used in clinical trials; studies had focused on how storage methods and duration might affect blood, but not on the differences among lots of blood themselves.
In February 2019 the FDA warned about companies offering young blood transfusions stating: "simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies. Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful. There are reports of bad actors charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials. The promotion of plasma for these unproven purposes could also discourage patients suffering from serious or intractable illnesses from receiving safe and effective treatments that may be available to them."
A startup company, Ambrosia, has been selling "young blood transfusions" for $8,000 since 2016 under the guise of running a clinical trial, to see if such transfusions lead to changes in the blood of recipients. As of August 2017, they had 600 people join. The clinical trial has no control arm and so is neither randomized nor blind. The company was started by Jesse Karmazin, a medical school graduate without a license to practice medicine. David Wright is the licensed doctor overseeing the clinical trial; in his practice he administers intravenous treatments of vitamins and antibiotics for nontraditional purposes and was disciplined by the California Medical Board for the latter in 2015. Jonathan Kimmelman, a bioethicist from McGill University, suggests that Ambrosia is running this as a trial as they would be unable to get FDA approval to sell this treatment otherwise.
On February 19, 2019, Ambrosia announced it stopped testing the treatment, responding to concerns from the FDA.
Another company, Alkahest, was founded based on the Stanford rodent studies. As of 2017 it is collaborating with European pharmaceutical company Grifols to create a blood plasma-based experimental biologic drug which they propose to test on people with Alzheimer's.
Young Blood Institute
Scientific American reported in 2018 that young blood transfusion was being offered by the Young Blood Institute as a paid "trial". Like Ambrosia, the trial had no control and charged the participants for entry, in this case $285,000 per person. Dipnarine Maharaj, a Florida physician running the trial, has previously offered both traditional and nontraditional anti-aging treatments such as stem cell banking. He also has ties to the Hippocrates Health Institute, an organization promoting unproven alternative medicine. The Young Blood Institute's trial has been promoted by Bill Faloon, who founded the Life Extension Foundation, which was raided by the FDA In 1987 for illegally importing medicine in a later-dropped case.
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