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Blood transfusion startup Ambrosia is now up and running (businessinsider.com)
44 points by bryanrasmussen 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments



"A startup company, Ambrosia, has been selling "young blood transfusions" for $8,000 since 2017 under the guise of running a clinical trial ... 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 trial as they would be unable to get FDA approval to sell this treatment otherwise." [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_blood_transfusion#Ambros...


I don't know if Parabiosis will eventually prove to have any use in fighting any sort of disease ever, but what I can tell from this article is that I wouldn't trust that company as far as I can throw it.

Just the thought that someone running a medical company thinks he can gather evidence worth talking about by just observing old people who got blood transfusions tells you all you need to know. He's willing to completely fabricate claims about the benefits of this treatment.

We now how much of a nightmare Theranos was -and that was a relatively passive procedure they were selling. What happens when this scrappy start up skimps on the screening tests for their donors and end up with venereal diseases in their blood supply? The old 'fake it till you make it' doesn't fly here.


You think that was an impressive red flag? Then check this out: dismissing objections about effectiveness and safety from the researcher whose experiment is held up on their landing page as a proof of the treatment benefits!

https://nordic.businessinsider.com/researchers-say-ambrosia-...


Stanford needs to start a semester long required ethics course, this is vile.


> Just the thought that someone running a medical company thinks he can gather evidence worth talking about by just observing old people who got blood transfusions tells you all you need to know. He's willing to completely fabricate claims about the benefits of this treatment.

Indeed, we all know that it’s impossible to develop any kind of scientific knowledge outside randomised control trials. That’s why no one has any scientific opinions on the health effects of smoking tobacco or the long term effects of lead exposure on humans. Without RCTs there’s no way to be sure.


Enjoy your to-be-discovered deadly viruses you got from such a transfusion. (I'm not joking, there might be undetected viruses that promote development of cancer and other diseases.)


The history of blood transfusion is very much this story. I sincerely doubt there are any deadly viruses likely to be spread by transfusion that we don’t know about already, for large values of deadly.


The hemophilia community was devastated by HIV and hepatitis C. Anyone considering transfusion therapy should be very cautious.


Deadly virus not likely, but prions with weird long term effect is something we have not quite understood yet.


Maybe not the ones we know about, but there was a time in the 80s when AIDS suddenly spread like wildfire and we didn't know what caused it.

This can very easily happen again, and you subject yourself to this danger by receiving blood transfusions.


The medical part of my brain cringed on the idea to transfuse blood to healthy recipients.

Blood is a tremendously tricky substance. I guess they have the necessary precautions in place. But still...


I guess they have the necessary precautions in place

Given the history of some SV startups and their move-fast-break-things and fake-it-'til-you-make-it philosophy and looking back at some of the more unsavoury examples I believe you're highly optimistic here.


There is a difference between faking some standard lab tests and infecting people with deadly viruses or giving them fatal immune reactions.


Do you think that difference represents a line a highly motivated sociopath would be unwilling to cross?


Even the highly motivated sociopath will probably understand that dead customers are really bad for business.


Theranos management didn't much give a shit about potentially dead customers based on test results, which they knew were fraudulent.

So I still think this is a bit optimistic.


Still, I don't think that this compares. Bad test results rarely ever cause death, especially when the really time critical tests are done in clinics. And it's really hard to prove a test is wrong, or even maliciously wrong.

So I do believe that someone with questionable ethics is much more likely to assume he can get away with mostly-fake lab tests than with killing patients outright with something obvious like a bad reaction to a blood transfusion. Even infections with a blood-borne Virus would probably be discovered within a year or two, because blood transfusions are sort of the first culprits you have in mind.


To any British person they will assume Ambrosia are doing blood transfusions with custard


Given what happened in the 70s and 80s when the blood products were imported from the US to the UK [1] and this recently being in the news again because inquiries into it are again underway, I think many Brits may also shudder at the thought of blood transfusions being handled in such a blase way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contaminated_blood_scandal_in_...


I ate enough Ambrosia as a child that my blood is probably mostly custard already.


Now we know what the placebo is ... </joke>


My blood pretty much is anyway after Christmas.


Rice pudding.


This is of course ridiculous, stupid, and immoral, but I don’t think it’s unprecedented.

I know that the Vampire Facial[0] has been a popular supposed beauty treatment for at least a couple of years.

When I become king, all of this would be outlawed along with homeopathy.

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platelet-rich_fibrin_matrix


Giving that people are overusing drugs, I think you should let people the ability to eat sugar pills when they have the flu instead of going for something building bacterial resistance or having side effects.


Even scams like homeopathy can be useful via the placebo effect, at least for disorders where the placebo effect is significant.


I understand that to be true, but I’ve also read recently that the placebo effect is largely overstated.

I think I’m doubly bitter about homeopathy in particular because it’s available on the NHS. My tax money is going to fraudsters.


How on earth did the providers of such convince the NHS? They are by large considered quacks and has been ridiculed on state TV (NRK, our BBC) numerous times.


> Homeopathy isn't widely available on the NHS. In 2017, NHS England recommended that GPs and other prescribers should stop providing it. [0]

Luckily this is no longer the case (in general)!

[0] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Homeopathy/


If you remove the ability for people to spend money on worthless things, they will only have money to spend on useful things, and thus drive up inflation.


Wait, what? So waste is good for economy now?


Not good, but better for society than rich people siting in a pile of cash forever? It is like vegetables. They are not good, but they are better than eating more carbs.


Cash is paper. No one cares about paper. Numbers in a bank account are numbers in a database somewhere. No one particularly cares about numbers in databases. What we care about is either investment or consumption, the use of resources. If rich people are not consuming their wealth then they are not using their resources. That means they’re available for everyone else to use because there’s only so much productive capacity in the economy and most of the time it’s almost all being used.

Investment is good for creating future wealth. Not using money rounds to investment, not at a personal level, but at a macroeconomic one.


Not true. Positional goods aren’t worthless but their worth is rank ordered, not “real”. Given that development in SF is de facto illegal there is going to be very little change in the number of penthouse luxury apartments. The prices can go up an enormous amount if rich people from outside want to move in.


Next SV startup: all the benefits of young blood transfusion, but requiring only a single drop of blood.


Can you say the next Theranos?


No, they have an actual product. It's just pseudo-science. It's a different sort of fraud that would attract a different type of buy-in


Where are they getting the plasma from? Doesn't it basically cost about $75 for the donor plus the cost of collecting the plasma? Based on the ads that I have seen.


So, what exactly is the theory here? They are transfusing plasma, which, as far as I understand, is blood without all the various cells in it. So basically water with some elements and whatever proteins are too small to separate in the centrifuge.

So either the specific mixture of stuff in "young blood" is better, or they mean the specific molecules are healthier because of their origin. The latter is homeopathy style chemistry, and the former seems mostly like a contrived way of taking hormonal supplements.


Plasma contains many growth factors, most of which are unknown.

Something similar exists: PRP injections, which may be quackery, but seem to attract a lot of interest especially in sport medicine.

However, PRP is autologous. The only real risk are bacterial infection because of breaching the skin.

With Ambrosia, we are talking about repeated transfusions. Would you share needles with a stranger, even after reading their serologic status is clean, and some kind of a vetting process?

Personally, I wouldn't, but I am certainly very grateful to all the volunteers engaging in this trial: if there is something of interest, I will learn from their experience. If not, they will have taken the risk for me.

In both cases, I benefit.


I think the premise is the mouse studies made on the subject, for example:

"Young Blood Rejuvenates the Aging Brain"

> Previous studies have demonstrated that instilling young blood into an old rodent can rejuvenate peripheral tissues, such as liver and muscle, and can stimulate the birth of new nerve cells in the brain. The authors show that this method can also counteract age-related declines in learning and memory by activating specific signaling pathways in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning

[..]

> These experiments raise the fascinating possibility that transfusion of blood or specific bloodborne factors from young humans might rejuvenate the aged human brain.

http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/238/238ec95


In these studies they connected the circulatory systems of the two mice together for prolonged periods of time.


From Gavin Belson we know that you can never ever trust your blood boy.


Seriously, it's not the first time that the real Silicon Valley turns out to be even stranger than the show. I guess the writers have it easy.


Right ;)




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