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Beware of Buying Young People's Blood to Prevent Aging, FDA Says (bloomberg.com)
83 points by leothekim 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments



As the medical director of a blood bank and donor center that produces plasma, please do not taint the public's perception of the blood supply with misuses like this. We have a hard enough time ensuring sufficient donors without calling into question our disposition of their generous donations. We do not condone this sort of use. If you think this is abstract, I am about to send an email to my surgical colleagues because we'll be out of the most precious donation tonight at midnight: platelets. You tighten the donor pool at all, and you will make platelet donations exponentially harder.

I can't overemphasize the risk this misuse of blood products represents to healthcare systems around the world. This is an anti-vax movement waiting to happen: "Billionaires looking for a fountain of youth get blood transfusions from young bucks? WTF?" blends easily into "Why should I donate blood if they're just going to sell it to billionaires?" This would be catastrophic for trauma resuscitation, surgeries of all kinds, and a variety of medical patients.

There should be severe penalties for soliciting service like this. Imagine if solid organ transplants were handled in the same way: "Young man, as a new intern, I'll give you a percentage of my Facebook stock in exchange for a kidney..."

The next problem: it will only take one high-profile transfusion reaction to crater the public trust. If the biology nerds in the audience want to distract you with fancy talk about the low risk of certain molecular things happening because "it's just plasma", skip it. Simple, mechanical transfusion-associated circulatory overload is plenty enough to kill an old guy with stiff arteries and hypertension.

And the worst part is the lack of science being used to drive a supply chain decision that's highly science-dependent. This is so ethically corrupt I don't even know where to begin. The FDA's statement pales in comparison to what I'm sure the inspectors are actually feeling right now.

Please, if you know someone soliciting this kind of transfusion (recipient or physician), encourage them to read the FDA statement.


> Imagine if solid organ transplants were handled in the same way: "Young man, as a new intern, I'll give you a percentage of my Facebook stock in exchange for a kidney..."

This is already true in Iran. Here's the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The practice of selling one's kidney for profit in Iran is legal and regulated by the government. In any given year, it is estimated that 1400 Iranians sell one of their kidneys to a recipient who was previously unknown to them.[1] Iran currently is the only country in the world that allows the sale of one's kidney for compensation (typically a payment); consequently, the country does not have either a waiting list or a shortage of available organs


Your success criteria both reference the recipient. Often things can work out well for the wealthy and poorly for even those who "voluntarily" opt in.


Oh, yeah, donating a kidney halves the donor's long-term glomerular filtration capacity. They're sacrificing years of life for that decision.


Is it really this much? Anything you can point to? I had a friend who worked for. A non profit related to kidneys and she said the risks were minimal besides the surgery, and I always found that hard to believe.


You have two sieves and can sift 10 pounds of sand a minute. I take away one of your sieves. How long will it take you to sift those 10 pounds of sand?


This analogy doesn't really explain how much having only one kidney effects life expectancy.


Weird though because that's only one organ and most of the others don't compare with spares.


But if there's a scale about how replaceable an organ is then kidneys are far closer to blood or plasma than other organs.


Couldn't you fix this with paid, professional (but not full time), healthy blood donors? Compensation to donors would be a trivial cost of any operation performed with the blood, right?

Is this -- at risk of going there -- just another case where the effective solution is too disgust-evoking to try?

Edit: I agree that free donors will dry up under a system of compensation, but that's equally true of e.g. going to "all lumber must be donated" -> pay market prices to tree farms.


Paying for blood is not new. It has been shown to increase the infectious disease risk in the blood supply.


Yes, for the general population. Hence why I was careful to say "professional, healthy". Can you address that version of the proposal?

Say, limiting it to people who are well-screened and known to be healthy and not have risky lifestyles.

I assume this isn't a case of "oh we tried something like this ages ago and failed so we can't do anything like it again".


I mean, you are shoving needles into otherwise healthy people's arms. I've not googled the claims of the MD here, but as a first pass, you should expect that infections should increase every time you open up the brachial artery. Sterilization isn't every perfect, people can be Typhoid Marys, mistakes happen when putting in and taking out needles, etc. Just trying to play vampire all willy-nilly is not a good plan for longevity.


Seriously? I've never heard of blood extraction as presenting a risk to the extractee.


Any medical procedure has risks. I mean, you are breaking skin and jabbing a sharp metal rod into someone's arm. Like, you should expect there to be at least some risk.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-donation/a...

https://www.healthline.com/health/disadvantages-blood-donati...


Yes. But I don't see any obvious reason why it should be so large that, even doing it every day, that adds up to notable risk.

That depends very heavily on the numbers, and I've never heard any public health professional even suggest that the risk rises to the level of "you need a good reason to justify doing it at all". Whenever I hear of a downside to having blood drawn, it's always in the context of "oh you might get results with false positives" or unnecessary physical cost. Never "zomg you could get infected if you keep it up". If anything, I've heard that it's healthy to have blood drawn regularly.

Heck, even the (healthline) link you gave -- which specifically exists to enumerate downsides, says nothing about infection, just very acute stuff and the physical costs I mentioned above.

Everything has risk; that doesn't mean everything has risk that is significant; that question depends crucially on the numbers involved, and all heuristics show this isn't a significant one. (Seems roughly on the level of "staying safe by taking 4 rather than 20 flights a year.")

In any case, it still seems irrelevant to the use-case in question, with regards to "evil Peter Thiel is compromising the blood supply".

- Thiel finds and screens a healthy person who likely wasn't already donating blood.

- Thiel pays out the nose for proper extraction protocols.

- Thiel's candidate's blood doesn't enter the blood supply.

How does that translate into someone not getting a blood transfusion because of lacking supplies? How does that translate into more infections?


>If anything, I've heard that it's healthy to have blood drawn regularly.

Look, unless you have Thrombophlebitis or other such diseases, I would advise you to find new places to hear things. Having regular blood draws as a normal healthy person is obviously crazy.

> But I don't see any obvious reason why it should be so large that, even doing it every day, that adds up to notable risk.

> ... I've never heard any public health professional even suggest that the risk rises to the level of "you need a good reason to justify doing it at all".

Literally, this whole comment chain is about how the FDA is specifically saying that the risks outweigh the benefits.

If Peter has a 'thing' for blood and wants to play vampire to naively stave off death for a few more weeks and someone else wants to try to take advantage of his insanely large ego, that's fine with me. Y'all do your own kinda crazy. All I'm saying is that blood draws and infusions have obvious health risks and I agree with the FDA in that the risks outweigh the benefits.


>Look, unless you have Thrombophlebitis or other such diseases, I would advise you to find new places to hear things. Having regular blood draws as a normal healthy person is obviously crazy.

Here's a non-shady site justifying giving blood every two months and significant health benefits from doing so:

https://www.brmsonline.com/blog/wellness/healthcare/2018/ben...

>Literally, this whole comment chain is about how the FDA is specifically saying that the risks outweigh the benefits.

Yes, saying risks outweigh the benefits with respect to the recipient, and because the benefits are currently very speculative. Not because having blood drawn is a super risky endeavor.

Virtually every objection levied in this demonstrably non-responsive.


Given the lack of blood donors, what is your personal stance on paying people to donate blood to blood banks? (to be used strictly for "trauma resuscitation, surgeries of all kinds, and a variety of medical patients", not for voodoo science anti-aging treatments)


Wondering this as well. I used to donate blood, but why do it for free when technically speaking hospitals generate revenue off my blood? How hard would it be really to incentivize me to show up and compensate me for my time, after all, the doctors, nurses, etc who are handling our blood wouldn't do it for free so why should I?


This always rubbed me the wrong way. Remember back in the day Red Cross doing this and this was before Haiti scandal.

Could be a decent business to pay x amount for people to donate blood and sell it to hospital. People would be incentivised to donate blood, hospital would get more off it and given they are already paying for it.


It significantly increases the risk of blood borne pathogens.


Paying for blood significantly increases the risk of blood borne pathogens.


> Paying for blood significantly increases the risk of blood borne pathogens.

Because the money incentivizes those who shouldn't donate to donate (and attempt to bypass any controls that prevent them from donating)?


I've also felt annoyed about the dishonesty of the blood donation market but that makes actually "some" sense. then again they should just register donors and extensively check them plus paying. then everybody wins.


> then again they should just register donors and extensively check them plus paying. then everybody wins.

That probably won't work. You want donors to voluntarily disqualify themselves when they become ineligible (like if they've started taking a prohibited mediation), and they're going to be less likely to do that if they're coming in to get paid. You can't monitor their lives 100% and I doubt it's practical to run screening tests for every problem.

To use a software analogy: it's defense in depth strategy. Their polices screen for honesty, and then they do technical screening as a further check. Neither's perfect, but together they're probably more effective than either alone.


Running extensive checks before each donation would dramatically increase the cost, I would think.


You don't do it on each donation, you screen specific people and then disproportionately use them.


That seems like an easily solvable problem. "We've tried the most security-hole ridden version of the idea ... and we're all out of ideas!"


It significantly increases the risk of blood borne pathogens


Thanks for posting this - these are facets of the story I'd never have known otherwise


Proof if it were needed that money can’t buy you brains. Making the leap from rodent models where a juvenile and elderly rodent shared a circulatory system to transfusions is so breathtaking in its lack of basic sense that you have to wonder how these guys made it in tech to begin with. Never mind that we’re not rodents, and if we were we’d already be immortal with all we’ve cured mice of. Never mind the morality or risks, just focus on the stupidity of equivocating a pint of “young blood” with hooking your circulatory system to another organism!

Is it really shocking that cadging the use of a young endocrine system, kidneys, lungs etc might help an older organism? No. Is it shocking that supposedly intelligent people have managed to conflate that with a transfusion? Yes!


But why not? It seems that blood donation is a well-established medical practice, so presumably safe... So for minimal risk, you get a low-probability chance of tremendous benefit (life extension). Sounds very worth it.


Blood transfusion comes with a host of risks which increase the more you do it. Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to save up for a time when my life depends on not having an infusion reaction!

I’m also getting the sense that you’re not quite getting what I’m saying about the difference between getting a bag of blood from a teenager, and having your circulatory system grafted onto a teenager. Even leaving aside the “we’re not mice” issue, you do see the difference not only in scale, but type right? Please say yes...


> having your circulatory system grafted onto a teenager.

College students need money and spring break is a good time to be grafted onto an old rich guy for a week.


I'm mentally adjusting the applicability of Poe's Law to @awakeasleep's above comment: It's typically a blood plasma internship, done for exposure to the wealthy clients.


Sure, but that's just you. Personally, I definitely support people electing to do experimental treatments on themselves, as long as there's sufficient oversight. Especially people who are close to dying anyways (e.g. maybe not at 35, maybe yes at 95).

Not sure what you're getting at with transfusion vs. circulatory system... I see 3 options: (1) works in mice but not in humans, (2) works in humans with just blood, (3) works in humans but needs more than blood (either whole "young circulatory system" or just parts of it, e.g. hormones etc.). So, you might be willing to experiment that (2) holds.

I mean, if you're opposed to this, if you're certain it's immoral, wouldn't you also be opposed to any trials as well? After all, this is similar to a trial... Sure, it doesn't have as much value to the society, as it's not blind randomized, but it might still have tremendous value to an individual.


"Not sure what you're getting at with transfusion vs. circulatory system"

Because having a graft like they did to the mice is closer to the equivalent of a new kidney, liver, lung, and pancreas transplant than it is to a blood transfusion. The original experiment is no where near close to what is being sold and there are no controlled trials that show a "young blood" transfusion provides benefit.


I’m not opposed to you volunteering for medical experiments.


makes one wonder. what is the cost of a grafted teenager?


"why not" is always a good way of killing people. If you don't know why and how, you don't know it's effects. The whole 'well it won't kill you' mentality of false medicine ends up prolonging the time, if ever, of a person getting real treatments. This is an infectious mentality, not just one individuals choice for themselves.


Another way of framing it is that by regularly accepting a low but non-zero risk of very serious consequences of blood transfusion, you get a possibility of magic happening which currently exists in the realm of conjecture.

Not to mention that some people have established medical needs for plasma donations and the number of donors is not unlimited...


Blood transfusion has a number of significant risks, just not in comparison to the cases where it is employed.

From the FDA, "The more common risks are allergic reactions and transfusion associated circulatory overload and less common risks include transfusion related acute lung injury or transfusion associated circulatory overload and infectious disease transmission."

A Sense of impending doom is a side effect of an incompatible blood transfusion and is typically followed by death.

These companies are also mostly fly by night "move fast and break things" motto companies that do not undergo rigorous medical evaluations. A large part of the FDAs concern in their official statement is that these companies are not conducting clinical trials.


Well-established medical practices aren't necessarily safe, they just have benefits that tend to outweigh the risks in normal use. When there are no established benefits, even a small risk is too much.


>When there are no established benefits, even a small risk is too much.

Then how are you ever supposed to establish the benefits in the first place?


Through the same scientific processes we use for to verify all medicine and medicinal procedures. You don't establish benefits by selling it to the public.


Yes, but that would still be disallowed under the claim that “even a small risk is too much”, hence my point :-p


I was saying this in the context of offering a treatment to the general public. That's very different from a clinical trial, where there are benefits beyond the immediate effects on the patient that help to justify the individual risk. The benefits of scientific studies on medical treatments are well-established.

Even if you think you can find some weird corner case where this doesn't apply, do you disagree with the general principle that benefits should outweigh risks for medical procedures?


Aside from very real medical concerns being covered in other comments, donors are typically anonymous. So I would be extremely leery of claims that it's from "young people" to begin with.

Blood intended to save your life makes no unverifiable claims about the age of the donor. They are pretty strict about who can give blood, but this is not per se a pertinent metric normally.


> But why not? It seems that blood donation is a well-established medical practice, so presumably safe.

It's safer than bleeding out and dying. That doesn't necessarily mean it's 100% risk free.


I think you've been downvoted for conflating "good idea" with "good product".

There's plenty of polished turds, that, marketed appropriately, will make their promoters and founders millions.

I agree with you though -- the leaps here are tremendous, and likely unfounded.


The only thing that advances faster than science is the rate at which psuedo-science co-opts it to sell people snake oil.


> sells one liter of blood plasma from donors between the ages of 16 and 25 for $8,000, according to its website.

I would be very curious to know what they typically paid the donor in that transaction.


It's typically a blood plasma internship, done for exposure to the wealthy clients.


Poe's law is so strong with this comment, I have no idea what to believe.


Probably not a ton. I used to donate plasma every Friday for some beer money. I'd normally get 15-30 dollars. That number was higher than most as well, because I got paid extra due to receiving various vaccinations in the military.


I feel like this is missing the part where the FDA just shut down Ambrosia.

Check out their site. It's just a note "In compliance with the FDA announcement issued February 19, 2019, we have ceased patient treatments."

https://www.ambrosiaplasma.com/


That's creepy to associate young people's blood plasma with nectar of the gods.


Well the nectar of the gods made you immortal if you ate/drank it, right? So it seems appropriate considering what they purported to be selling.


> So it seems appropriate considering what they purported to be selling.

Or inappropriate false advertising...


Hence the word purported and not “are selling”. We’re in agreement here, sounds like snake oil to me.


oh wow indeed this seems more important.

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/aging/young-blood-company-amb...

they re probably not the only ones shutting down



Link currently broken (from their side)


Works just fine for me.


Yet another example of reality making it very difficult for organizations like the Onion.


You had me in the first half, not gonna lie.


I feel like this headline could be from any century


Or from any country - such as Transylvania.


The FDA is still on the fence about Marijuana, if that gives you any idea of where they are at on new technologies and drugs.


Sure, but let's leave the FDA out of the picture for a second:

1. How much evidence is there that Marijuana is an effective treatment for certain diseases? How much evidence is there that Marijuana is harmful?

2. How much evidence is there that infusing young people's plasma into your blood treats any illnesses? How much evidence is there of risks associated with infusing plasma?

We don't need to include the FDA to take a look at how silly the idea is.


My comment is made to combat the tone of this thread that somehow an FDA warning is the same thing as negative proof.

The FDA is famously restricted by the Feds, often leaving them decades behind. This is like an OSHA type warning telling you not to inject plasma into yourself like an idiot.


In college, I’m pretty certain I infused marijuana into my bloodstream for four straight years. The resultant life extension is still to be determined.


But have you tried injecting your blood into an insane billionaire? That seems to be part of the process.


"You wouldn't believe the NEW WEIRD WAY kids are GETTING HIGH!"


A lot of people are still on the fence. Science is not completely clear about what is happening with weed. And it is not always a "positive" drug.

I'm all for making it legal, but we should also realize that there is a multi-billion dollar lobby pushing with an agenda for legalization that tries to paint weed with all the advantages in the world.


There's also incredibly profitable cigarette business's that want to fund the opposite, and arguably have had much more influence and money to do so. Weed isn't a miracle, but it's also not evil either.


There's also an incredibly large number of people who just want to get high, who would love to be told that a joint a day will cure their cancer, and hair loss, and will not do any damage to their brain, lungs, or circulatory system.

I get it. I mean, I'd love to believe studies that tell me that my moderate alcohol use isn't harming my health. Unfortunately, they don't seem to pass replication.


Exactly. I quickly realized that most of the people yelling high and loud that Weed is a safe drug with only good benefits, are usually the type of people that want to justify to themselves that getting high the whole day is a good thing.


You're obviously committing a straw man fallacy.

But based on this line of arguing, you're implying that young blood has actual biological benefits.

If so, can you back this claim up at all?


My point is that when science discovers something, good or bad, the FDA will be the last one to tell you.

The commenters in this thread seem to believe an FDA warning is some type of negative proof on this therapy. I just don't think that's the right way to read this.


LOL I thought this was a crazy imagined thing for Gavin Belson. So I guess the SV thing was a satire of real life already?




Fret not. He can invest in something else to cure that disappointment.


Having to vet the source of the children's blood you vampire like transfuse yourself with sounds like a billionaire problem.


As far as I can tell, Bloomberg didn't actually link to an official statement, but the Verge did:

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/u...


Also I think if you ever need a kidney transplants, all the antibodies in your system from blood transfusions may make it hard to find a match.


I would be scared to inject myself with someone else's blood without science fully understanding what is going on yet.


If you had dementia you would be even more scared. That's why quack medicine can survive in a world where rational information is available, it is terrifying to die.


Business idea: wooden stakes for sale!!! I’ll make a killing.

Call me old fashioned, but I can’t believe this is a thing.


FDA subtweeting Larry Ellison here


Hey, stop putting blood boys out of their jobs!


this reads like an onion article but the skeptic in me suggests the rich know something we do not.


It has really come down to this. The FDA has to warn people that it is a bad idea to inject yourselves with other peoples blood.

I like the idea though. For centuries we've had motif's of the "evil queen" bathing in the blood of innocents to rejuvenate herself. Now in modern times we can move past the idea of wealthy elderly capitalistic vampires sucking the youth out of people indirectly to becoming literal vampires sucking the life out of the young directly.


As a once-young person I would not have had any problem selling my blood a pint at a time to help an elderly person feel rejuvenated, assuming that it worked and I was being paid for it. After all, I often gave away my blood for free, and go nothing in return except some juice, cookies, and a smile.


Sounds like 2019 tech vampires...


The statement says that there's no clinically-proven benefits. Have there been any clinical studies?




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