Can young blood help us live forever?
The key to our eternal future lies with Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian countess who lived in the 16th century and murdered more than 600 young girls.
She murdered them so that she could bathe in their blood, believing that the blood of a virgin could make her live forever.
While being clearly insane she was right about one thing, the blood of younger organisms does actually have a profound impact on fighting aging in older ones.
It’s more than coincidence that Bathory’s homeland of Transylvania is also associated with the Vampire, Count Drak kew La, who feeds on the blood of the young in order to live forever.
There is also the legend of the holy grail, the cup used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch Jesus’s blood at the Crucifixion.
The Crusader knights believed that drinking the blood would provide eternal life and youth.
As bizarre as it may seem, these folk tales actually do have a scientific link to life extension.
Blood is the glue that holds all of us together, it connects all the different tissues in the body.
It is the medium that carries immune cells, oxygen, hormones, and messenger molecules that transport information, from one organ to another.
Recently, scientists have begun to notice that young blood has rejuvenating properties when given to the elderly.
One study published in the journal of nature communications found, that when the circulatory systems of a young mouse and an old mouse are stitched together, the blood from the young mouse dramatically extends the lifespan of the old mouse.
The technique of stitching the blood vessels of 2 organisms together so they share a blood supply, is called, “Parabiosis”.
It was first pioneered in the nineteen fifties by Doctor Clive McCave of Cornell University.
But now Parabiosis experiments are being done again in order to find out if there’s anything special about young blood that lets the body repair itself.
Parabiosis involves removing the outer skin of mice and sewing them together like Siamese twins so they pump each other’s blood.
It might seem horrifying, but the mice still eat and play as regular mice would.
In fact, the old mouse is even healthier than old mice who are not stitched to a younger blood supply.
In 2007, doctor Thomas Rando from Stanford University found that the stem cells of old parabiotic mice become activated again, rejuvenating damaged muscle and building new tissues.
The study involved 4 specific experiments using Young mice, age 20 in human years, and old mice that are 65 in human years.
The first one involves 2 young mice stitched together, showing that they repair at the same rate when the scientists make a cut on their muscle.
The second experiment pairs a young mouse with an old mouse and cuts the young mouse only, to prove that the old mouse won’t be a burden on the young mouse’s ability to repair muscle.
Luckily, they seem to repair at the same rate as before.
The third experiment connects two old mice, showing that they can’t repair muscle without young blood.
The most interesting experiment is the fourth one, where they link the bloodflow of a young mouse to an old mouse again but injure the old mouse this time.
Surely enough, the young mouse repairs the old mouse just as it would repair itself.
What’s interesting is that when the young bloodstream is infused into an older body, the old mouse shows characteristics of a younger brain as well.
One study published in the journal nature medicine found that young blood also rejuvinated the brains of older mice after they received an infusion of plasma.
They found increased synaptic activity and that neurons in their hippocampus were better at forming connections.
They also found that the young mouse blood also rejuvenated the hearts of older mice suffering from cardiac hypertrophy.
The heart shrank back to its normal size after just 4 weeks of being injected with young blood.
In 2014, researchers at Stanford decided it was time to move on to humans. They gave blood transfusions to Alzheimers patients donated by people under 30.
Unfortunately, since humans live more than 20 times as long as mice do, it will be a long time to see how this will work in humans long term.
For those who are impatient, there is a silicon valley startup called “Ambrosia”. They are offering 8000 dollar blood transfusions to people who can pay.
Most people who signed up for the treatment tend to be at retirement age and looking to reverse their age related diseases.
Patients are given a blood transfusion from teenagers once a week and then their brains are scanned for the Stanford clinical study, which will try to determine if the blood reverses aging.
Apparently, the blood boys from “Mad Max” are now officially nonfiction.
Immortalist and Tranz Humanist billionaire Peter Thiel has publically stated, that blood transfusions are the path to life extension. But don’t go storing packs of your young blood in the freezer just yet, because we might be able to make this blood in a lab.
You don’t have to sign up with Ambrosia to get youthful blood again.
Researchers now think young blood regenerates the body, not because of the blood itself, but because of some secret molecule inside it.
Scientists found that when young blood was slightly heated up before being injected into old mice, the health improvements were gone.
Slight changes in heat destroy proteins, which suggests that a molecular factor in young blood is the reason for life extension.
Doctor Rando suspects that a protein in the blood is revitalizing the stem cells and that we could isolate it or manufacture it in a pill.
Harvard University biologist, Doctor Amy Wagers, reproduced the Parabiosis study and believes the cause is a protein called GDF11.
However, a team from Cambridge recently claimed that production of GDF11 actually increases with age so it can’t be the reason.
However, as the body gets older, it loses the ability to produce another protein called Delta.
A recent study in the journal of cell metabolism found that the more mice age, the less delta is found in their bloodstream.
When delta is infused into an older mouse it might be regenerating their bodies at the molecular level.
But some others think it might be a macromolecule called “Osteopontin”.
A German Scientist, Harmut Geiger at the University of Ulm, found that older mice produce very low levels of the protein osteopontin, which seems to have an impact on blood cell production.
Rather than looking at blood transfusions, Geiger’s team found that stem cell transplants with no osteopontin aged very quickly.
However, when old stem cells were introduced to a dish with osteopontin, the stem cells began to rapidly produce new cells.
The team is now developing a drug which includes osteopontin but he does not promise it will grant you everlasting life.
Long-term studies must be done to verify the effect of osteopontin on rejuvenating the body but the drug might still be available to those feeling Lucky enough to take a risk.
I think more research is needed before we can find this so-called “Holy Grail of proteins” so I wouldn’t recommend buying it.
In addition, I also wouldn’t recommend signing up with Ambrosia.
The fact that they don’t have control groups for their research is profoundly suspicious to me.
Overall, the research done on Parabiosis is changing the way scientists look at aging.
The key to life extension might not be growing new organs, but having the right blood.
This information would probably have been useful to Alexander the Great and Ponce de Leone before they dragged their armies off looking for eternal life.
I suppose that the fabled fountain of youth was inside us all along, it has simply just dried up.
Who knows, maybe one day, we can figure out how to make the fountain flow again.
AWhat even is blood? The average adult has about 10 pints of blood, 45% of which is made up of Erythrocytes, or red blood cells, which deliver oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. While we need our blood to live, it can also be a liability, vulnerable to diseases like anemia, which affects 3 million people across America. It is also vulnerable to blood cancers, like Myelogenous leukemia, which affects red blood cells and puts you at risk for death. If our blood causes so much trouble for us, why can’t we just replace it with something that’s less vulnerable and more efficient? Recently, there have been attempts to create synthetic blood, artificial replacement compounds that can also carry and deliver the oxygen for us just as well. Synthetic red blood cells also eliminate the need for blood donors, blood transfusions, blood transmitted diseases, immune system rejection, and blood storage, since blood expires after 42 days. Oxygen-carrying blood substitutes like hemoglobin-based carriers and perfluorocarbon-based carriers have been proposed as replacements for blood. However, I vehemently oppose this method of life extension for one simple reason. Because natural blood contains hidden factors that help rejuvenate our bodies.
The first type uses hemoglobin based compounds, the membrane of the red blood cell is removed in this process and in doing so it removes something called isomer 23DPG, the hemoglobin can transport the oxygen throughout the body but without the isomer 23DBG has a difficult time releasing the oxygen molecule and just drives by the body and doesn’t deliver. Biomedical engineers are trying to develop artificial red blood cells that will encapsulate actual hemoglobins. The blood cell would be synthetic but the hemoglobin wouldn’t be and the type wouldn’t matter and would hopefully be able to release the oxygen where it needs to go. Another way to create HBOCs is to a chemical bond and hook 2 hemoglobins together, it strengthens the hemoglobin, lasts longer in the circulatory system then would only need a molecule that mimics the isomer then boom. According to the FDA HBOCs tend to build up toxic levels in the blood and cause high blood pressure and hurt other organs so HBOCs are not the best. The other method is the PFBOC, the perfluorocarbon based oxygen carriers. They are liquid fluorinated hydrocarbon carbons. They carry dissolved oxygen and simulating the effects of hemoglobin without using it. We need to make these things compatible humans, they require emulsification because they don’t mix with actual blood. In 1989 Japan manufactured the first FDA approved PFC and they didn’t have a lot of success with it, it was complicated to use and had side effects. Those two groups are the only ways we’ve tried to make synthetic blood. But there are less recognized alternatives for blood like, hyperbranched polymer-protecting porforins, which is pretty much plastic blood. It’s currently being developed at the University of Sheffield and uses plastic molecules with an iron atom core. It transports oxygen throughout the body but uses iron just like hemoglobin. Stem cells from umbilical cords can be used to create red blood cell substitutes, they can create 10,000 red blood cells from a single stem cell, but since it takes months and blood only lasts about 120 days you have to really stay on schedule. The conversion on top of that is only 50% successful, so we’ve got some problems. There’s also cloning blood it requires stem cells, it can be scaled to industrial levels and can be used in the military. It can be made type O so it’s universal. You come out with this great product, except it came out in 2008 using embryonic stem cells which were banned. Luckily there’s induced pluripotent transduction, where we can make stem cells from a specific patients blood, by reversing it into a stem cell, then redifferentiating them into blood.
Blood itself isn’t even necessary. What we really need blood for is oxygen transport. But it won’t be easy, even if you’ve developed blood in a lab, it’s even more difficult to make sure it’s safe to use in the world. The conditions a blood substitute must meet involve carrying oxygen, dropping it off where it’s needed, must last more than a few weeks at various temperatures, should transmit diseases, should cause immune responses in people with different blood types, and can also be mass produced at industrial scales. There are 3 major classes of blood substitutes that meet at least some of these criteria. The first is a class of synthetic compounds called perfluorocarbons, mostly made of carbon and fluorine but isn’t chemically reactive. They can bind with gases like O2 and CO2 and carry them around like red blood cells do. Problem is that they are hydrophobic molecules and don’t mix with our water filled bloodstreams. Thus they need to be mixed with other chemicals into what’s called an emulsion before they are put into the body. A few perfluorocarbon-based blood substitutes out there but there haven’t been a lot of clinical trials and a lot of research has stalled. There have been concerns about safety, treatments causing flu-like systems, and efficacy like patients needing to breathe in extra oxygen because they are worse at transporting blood than cells are. A second strategy is to use the actual oxygen carry protein in blood, hemoglobin. But we cannot just throw it into people, it’s inside red blood cells for a reason, hemoglobin can be toxic its just floating around because its really chemically reactive and can bind to different parts of cells which messes with how they work. We’ve tried chemically modifying hemoglobin to not cause toxicity, but many are still unsafe and didn’t work at the clinical trial stage. some research groups are trying to make different kinds of synthetic chemical envelops that keep hemoglobin safely tucked away just like our red blood cells do. But if they’re too small then they might escape out of blood vessels. Still the tech is appealing because a synthetic molevcular shell means there’s no blood type problem, and the chances for disease transmission are non-existent. It can also be freeze-dried and reconstituted in water for use, so it’ll have a long shelf life. But these are a long way from human trial. The third approach the UK’s national health service is set to test a blood substitute made of real red blood cells. They’re hard to make but not impossible, thanks to stem cell technology. Stem cells can turn into more specialized types when they’re exposed to different signals from chemical cocktails to physical contact. The stem cells in this artificial blood come from umbilical cords or bone marrow and with the right signals they become functionally identical to the red blood cells already inside of us. It’s hard to make mature blood cells from stem cells in the first place, it’s really hard to make a lot of them. It’s not. a solution to the blood shortage for the elderly. Investor Peter Thiel donated 500,000 dollars to SENS, or Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, which is focused on finding solutions to the 7 main causes of aging. One of these seven, called Replisenz, emphasizes the use of stem cell technology for replacing the decaying senescent cells in our blood.