IF you had ever dreamt of eternal youthfulness, a start-up claims to have the answer — just know it doesn’t come cheap.
Named after the food of the immortal gods in Greek mythology, Ambrosia is a private clinic in California offering blood plasma from teenagers and young adults aged 16-25 as an anti-ageing remedy.
Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazin said a single infusion of a two-litre bag of plasma will cost patients a hefty $A10,500, but he promises customers will “see improvements” within a month.
The notion of using young blood to help slow down the process of ageing has been explored since the 1950s, when researcher Clive M. McCay joined old and young rats together by stitching the skin on their flanks.
This process, known as parabiosis, saw their circulatory systems becoming joined, which made the cartilage of the older rat appear more youthful than it would otherwise.
There have been countless studies since McCay’s research, with more recent research also showing positive results.
In 2011, researchers found young blood administered to old rats resulted in a burst of new neurons in the hippocampus — the region of the brain that forms memories.
Then in 2013, researchers found a protein called GDF11 — abundant in young mice, but scarce in old mice — was present in the animals’ blood and likely responsible for the change.
To test the theory, scientists produced GDF11 and injected it into old mice, which resulted in their hearts becoming rejuvenated.
Mr Karmazin said he believed these studies were proof the treatment should be used for humans.
“I think the animal and retrospective data is compelling, and I want this treatment to be available to people,” he told MIT Technology Review.
As the 32-year-old has no license to practice medicine, has joined forces with David C. Wright — a 66-year-old physician with a private intravenous-therapy centre.
Despite being disciplined by the California Medical Board for incorrectly administering antibiotic infusions in 2015, Wright has become well-known for his “alternative” IV treatments.
As of December last year, the duo had infused 25 people with young blood and claim to have seen impressive results.
Mr Karmazin said one patient who suffered chronic fatigue syndrome “feels healthy for the first time” and “looks younger” after receiving the treatment.
Ambrosia will accept most patients over 35 years old, with the large cost covering the cost of clinical procedures, lab tests and the plasma.
While Karmazin seems confident of the procedure, not everyone agrees.
Professor Irina Conboy from University of California believes previous studies needed more solid evidence to prove they actually work.
“The problem is that there is no evidence to suggest that an infusion of plasma from young to old animals reverses ageing,” she said.
Ms Conboy added people are too quick to believe dubious anti-ageing remedies because of what they promise.
“You’ll see them at some meetings — people in the audience who open satchels of strange food,” she said.
“That is the group that Ambrosia is preying upon.”
Bioethicist Jonathan Kimmelman also believed there is no proof the plasma infusions work and Ambrosia’s treatment is just a marketing gimmick to earn money.
“There are a lot of patient-funded trials run by companies that use the trials as a way to sell products that wouldn’t be marketable because they’d have to be regulated by the FDA,” he said.
In addition to paying upwards of $10k for a procedure that might not actually work, chief of the immunotherapy division at California Pacific Medical Center Dobri Kiprov said patients were at risk of lung injury or deadly infections.
“To expose people to danger unnecessarily — in my mind, that is really horrible,” he said.