Young Blood : Is reversing the aging process snake oil or a reality?


Some of us want to live forever. Others just want a few more years so they can finally see their dreams become reality. Most people deal with what they are dealt, accepting to go when they go. But what if you could become younger and with renewed energy? There are actually a few prospects you should keep your eye on, if you think you would ever want to turn the clock back.

In California, movie executives and talent agents crave the blood of young people, for its star power and money making qualities. For those not adept at seeking out plasma for yourself, a startup will pump your veins full of the blood of young people for just $8000. The CA startup is called ‘Ambrosia’ and it has launched clinical trials of its vampiric sounding service, claiming that within a month of a one-time infusion of 2 litres of plasma, participants see “improvements.”

The science behind ‘Ambrosia’ is shaky at best, with many scientists questioning the legitimacy of the operation. Jesse Karmazin, the Princeton grad behind the startup took inspiration from studies on mice, conjoining the veins of young and old mice in a procedure called parabiosis. One of the biggest studies published in Cell showed that young blood increased muscle strength, though this could not be replicated in other tests. Other ‘young blood’ research has claimed improvement in cognitive faculties. Another Californian company is testing transfusion waters in the  treatment of Alzhemier’s Disease, albeit not charging patients for the privilege.

Tony Wyss-Coray, a neuroscientist that demonstrated that the memory of old mice improves after transfusions says that the participants of ‘Ambrosia’ are reading too much into inconclusive research. “People want to believe that young blood restores youth, even though we don’t have evidence that it works in humans and we don’t understand the mechanism of how mice look younger. I think people are just attracted to it became of vampire stories.”

Getting fresh blood pumped into you does seem a little bit like voodoo. Perhaps an approach with more of a scientific basis will guarantee youthful results. At the Salk Institute in California, researchers have been able to induce human cells into behaving like younger cells, increasing their lifespan. This is a step forward in the way we understand aging at a cellular level, and has potential to start human trials in the next 10 years.

The telomeres of our DNA, visually similar to shoelace tips

The telomeres of our DNA, visually similar to shoelace tips

If you can’t wait for sci-fi style treatment, there is something you can do now that might help you age gracefully. Nobel Prize winner, Elizabeth Blackburn wrote a book with psychologist Elissa Epel called “The Telomere Effect” which explores the impact that telomeres have on your body. Telomeres are the end parts of your DNA which by listening to your behaviours, will either lengthen or shorten. When they shorten, cells are less likely to continue dividing, eventually dying. With a stressful lifestyle, the effect is greater cell death and accelerated aging. For those who are likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, shortened telomeres could make you susceptible at a younger age. The book details that a healthy, stress free life is the key to halting the aging process.

Critics of the ‘Telomere Effect’ say that we can’t measure the entire aging process down to the tips of our DNA, but the message is still a positive one. Maybe the only real way to really slow down the wheel of time is to treat yourself right and you’ll be rewarded with a few extra years.

Do you haven any tips for slowing the aging process? Let us know at @en4news2016 on Twitter.

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