Older people who received transfusions of young blood plasma have shown improvements in biomarkers related to cancer, Alzheimers disease and heart disease, New Scientist has learned. I dont want to say the word panacea, but heres something about teenagers, Jesse Karmazin, founder of start-up Ambrosia, told New Scientist. Whatever is in young blood is causing changes that appear to make the ageing process reverse. Since August 2016, Karmazins company has been transfusing people aged 35 and older with plasma the liquid component of blood taken from people aged between 16 and 25. So far, 70 people have been treated, all of whom paid Ambrosia to be included in the study. Karmazin spoke to New Scientist ahead of presenting some of the results from the study at the Recode conference in Los Angeles. These results come from blood tests conducted before and a month after plasma treatment, and imply young blood transfusions may reduce the risk of several major diseases associated with ageing. Blood biomarkers None of the people in the study had cancer at the time of treatment, however Karmazins team looked at the levels of certain proteins called carcinoembryonic antigens. These chemicals are found in the blood of healthy people at low concentrations, but in larger amounts these antigens can be a sign of having cancer. The team detected that the levels of carcinoembryonic antigens fell by around 20 per cent in the blood of people who received the treatment. However, there was no control group or placebo treatment in the study, and it isnt clear whether a 20 per cent reduction in these proteins is likely to affect someones chances of developing cancer. Karmazin says the team also saw a 10 per cent fall in blood cholesterol levels. That was a surprise, he says. This may help explain why a study by a different company last year found that heart health improved in old mice that were given blood from human teenagers. They also report a 20 per cent fall in the level of amyloids a type of protein that forms sticky plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease. One participant, a 55-year-old man with early onset Alzheimers, began to show improvements after one plasma treatment, and his doctors decided he could be allowed to drive a car again. An older woman with more advanced Alzheimers is reportedly showing slow improvements, but her results have not been as dramatic. Reversing ageing Instead of halting the ageing process, Karmazin says he thinks plasma transfusions actually reverse it. But if this is true, the effects dont last forever. Some people have felt great since they had the treatment 9 months ago, he says. Others have felt the effects wore off after a few months. Neither the intensity nor staying power of the treatments effects seemed to have any obvious relationship to the age of the people treated. Whether youre 40 or 80, the effect is really similar, says Karmazin. Ageing is just wear and tear. We all age at different rates, but Karmazin thinks that, on average, people will benefit most from receiving the treatment around twice a year. We havent treated enough people to say with certainty. Many researchers are currently trying to chase down individual factors in the blood that may be responsible for any anti-ageing affects young blood may have. But Karmazin thinks the plasmas rejuvenating properties come from the cumulative effects of many aspects of blood. Its not just one thing, theres a lot going on. Placebo problems The companys trial has been criticised for having no placebo group. There is no telling what may be down to the placebo effect, says Arne Akbar at University College London. The placebo effect is known to be able to influence biochemistry in the body. Because the treatment cost the participants $8000 each, its possible those involved would imagine any effects they felt to be bigger than they really were. David Gems, also at University College London, would like to see more tests. It would be best to be tested at several time intervals before and after the treatment, and ideally to have the tests done under similar conditions, he says. A single test before and after will be too anecdotal. Karmazin wants to do placebo-controlled studies, but it will be more difficult to fund these as people arent likely to pay thousands of dollars to possibly receive a sham treatment instead of young plasma.
New Scientist, 31 May 2017 ;http://www.newscientist.com/ ;