The Vampire Approach to Longevity - Young Blood Revives Muscle, Brain & More | Plus: 6+ Less 'Horrific' Alternatives
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What Kalampouka et al. (2018) observed was that the muscle cells reacted differently to a stimulus in form of a scratch (intended to simulate muscular injury and recovery) depending on whether the cultured in media conditioned plasma from younger (18-35 years) or older individuals (>57 years).
Traditionally, experiments like that have been done to establish the effect of individual signaling proteins and/or other endocrine factors on certain biological processes. In the study at hand, the goal was yet not so much to isolate, extract, analyze, recreate, patent and cell one of the growth factors/inhibitors. Rather than that, Kalamouka et al. the put a deliberate focus on the "environmental change" of which they believe that it was the true underpinning of the effects of ageing on muscle function.
While this is an 'innovative' conception that contrasts the (still prevalent) assumption that aging was a process that's completely innate to the tissue, it is by no means new. Eventually, the scientists simply replicated a specific aspect of the rejuvenating magic of what scientists call "parabiosis". The compound word its inventors derived from the Greek words "para" (beside) and "bios" (life) is used to denote states of shared blood supply as they would naturally occur in regular twins or animals that share the same placenta in the womb or conjoined twins, as well as in the laboratory, when scientists knit rats together in a way that allows the blood from one rat to pass through the body of the other (see Figure 1). As Megan Scudellari highlights in her 2015 article
"[...] parabiosis presents a rare opportunity to test what circulating factors in the blood of one animal do when they enter another animal" (Scudellari 2015).If we are honest, though, this technology is by no means revolutionary new. In fact, it has been known and used back in the early 21st century already and significant breakthroughs in endocrinology, tumor biology and immunology (Bunster 1933; Coleman 1973; Walker 1973, etc.) depended on it. Against that background, it is quite surprising that for reasons that "are not entirely clear, the technique fell out of favor after the 1970s" (Scudellari 2015) and reappeared on the radar of contemporary researchers only recently. As I pointed out in yesterday's episode of Super Human Radio with Carl Lanore, it is possible that the concept of (ab-)using plasma transfusions (PT) or conjoining animals is perceived to be rather the topic of a science-fiction, dystopian or horror novel than scientific practice.
|PRP may be done locally and with a concentrated form of your own (not a younger person's) blood plasma, but the purported mechanism is identical.|
The latter, i.e. the signaling part, is fulfilled by cytokines and (growth factors/signaling) proteins in the platelets. It is the specific cocktail of signaling molecules that stimulates stem cells and activates the cellular repair process in the surrounding tissue.
"Ok, I get it, PRP helps with tissue repair and is used for skin rejuvenation, hair growth etc. but that's PRP not the plasma of a 20-year-old fellow human being, wtf!?"
If the above reflects your thoughts accurately, you're obviously right. The plasma transfusions (PT) let alone para-symbiotic treatments (I hope nobody ever tries that on human beings) are not identical with either PRP or stem cell therapy, but the underlying processes are identical. You get what supplement vendors would label "the full spectrum of rejuvenating signaling molecules" albeit (and that's not as marketable) not from your own blood, but rather from the blood of human specimen with fewer years of wear and tear on their scalp/hairline, their facial skin, their tendons, and and all the other body parts/organs (see illustration) where PRP is currently being used for "medical" purposes in beauty clinics - ah, and as gross as it may seem to be injected with someone else's plasma logic alone (and the papers discussed in this article) suggest that - disregarding potential side effects that are beyond the scope of this article - you're better off with the growth factor + signaling molecule mix from a younger + healthier individual than you'd be with the reinjection of a more concentrated version of the cocktail you already have in your blood.
Where the isolationist approach to drug development fails, plasma transfusions may succeed
Since what I've previously labeled as "the isiolationist approach to drug development" has been hitting walls for years now, scientists have started turning back to the good old Frankenstein + Dracula methods to find a cure for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's and the fountain of youth. As part of modern cancer-, (anti-)aging and auto-immune research parabiotic experiments have thus gotten more scientific and, due to their nature and promising initial results, public attention. Within the past decade, only, pertinent studies observed...
|Figure 1: Schematic depicting the parabiotic pairings in Villeda 2014; a treatment that's obviously far more invasive than a blood transfusion.|
- the regeneration of the myelin sheath that's defective in MS patients in mice (Ruck 2012),
- the successful treatment of murine auto-immune cholangitis (inflamed bile ducts | Yang 2016),
- the reversal of age-related cognitive impairments in mice (Villeda 2014),
- the vascular and neurogenic rejuvenation of the aging mouse brain (Katsimpardi 2014),
- kidney-specific anti-aging effects of young blood in mice (Huang 2017), and ...
- substantial insights into the aging immune system in heterochronic (see Figure 1, right) rodent-models (Davies 2015).
You don't want to be together with someone else? Don't worry.
Calm down, scientists believe and have actually shown that similar benefits as they occur when you actually join the two organisms may be achieved by the transfusion of blood plasma or specific bloodborne factors from young humans to older ones. In that, it is only logical that rejuvenation of the human brain and body being one of the applications that receive the most attention (Musiek 2014), the previously hinted at profane benefits of PRP therapies such as a younger skin, regrowing scalp hair etc. are yet probably as marketable "side effects" of the treatment ;-)
|Ambrosia LLC has been running a pilot study. Data acquisition has ended only in Jan 2018, though. So don't expect published data before the end of 2018 (very optimistic estimate).|
With the promise of having found the fountain of youth "Ambrosia" has convinced 600 clients to participate in a "study". Since data the collection for the study has ended only recently, we don't know much about these people, but their medium age supposedly gravitates towards 60 years and their sex is almost exclusively male. Some alleged early results that transpired - probably via investors or other players on the finance market - say that the scientists who are running the start-up observed a significant decreases (ca. -20%) of the levels of carcino-embryonic antigens and amyloids - both supposedly causally involved in the growth of cancer and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, respectively. Even if this figure is accurate, though, it cannot tell us whether the plasma transfusions (PT) will actually allow the wealthy clients of Ambrosia to "buy" a significant number of extra-years on earth... or, as the Stanford neuroscientist Tony Wyss-Coray says in an interview: "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".
Despite any pilot studies: No long-term study = no real-world results
Whatever the results of the pilot study may be, there's one thing you should be aware of: the description of trial NCT02803554 suggests that the scientists assessed the 1-months response to a single treatment with 1.5l of "young plasma". Why's that interesting? Well, while it may be true that a single treatment will trigger measurable improvements within 1 month, it is not realistic to assume that those will last "forever". In other words, it is highly unlikely that you can buy 10, 5 or even as little as 1 healthy extra-year on earth for just 8,000-$10,000, which is the current costs of a single blood plasma transfusion (costs according to the Ambrosia website | effective March 2018).
|Figure 3: Protein factors and other molecules that circulate in the blood of a young mouse exert rejuvenating effects on the brain of an old mouse after intravenous delivery (Wyss-Coray 2016). It is those protein factors, not the transfusion of "young blood" that is used to identify them, most researchers are ultimately interested in.|
- staying normal-weight (better maintaining a healthy body composition)
- lots of exercise- and non-exercise physical activity,
- a whole-foods based low (simple-)sugar diet with a balanced fat intake,
- conscious monitoring of both sleep quantity and quality,
- effective stress management
- refraining from cigarettes completely and limiting your alcohol intake to ≤ 1 glass of wine/d
|Figure 6: A proposed hierarchical model for the effects of calorie restriction on health and longevity (based on animal studies | Most 2017)|
|Figure 7: Differential effects of long-term caloric restriction in rodents, non-human primates and (expected effects) in non-obese humans.; (1) total energy expenditure relative to lean mass (Heilbronn 2003).|
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- Coleman, Douglas L. "Effects of parabiosis of obese with diabetes and normal mice." Diabetologia 9.4 (1973): 294-298.
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