A California-based startup that provides transfusions of human blood plasma from young people to older people claims that results from its human trial show improvements in biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. But the assertion prompted calls for caution from outside experts, who warn that the procedure hasn't been rigorously tested and may give seriously ill patients false hope.
The company, Ambrosia LLC, has provided young plasma to “almost 80” paying customers since August 2016 at a cost of $8,000 per transfusion, according to founder Jesse Karmazin, who spoke by phone from the Recode conference in Los Angeles, where he presented the findings.
“I’m thrilled with how strong the evidence seems,” Karmazin said. “We’re seeing these improvements across the board.”
Yet Karmazin acknowledged the results fall short of a peer-reviewed, double-blind scientific study that would involve, among other things, evaluation for a possible placebo effect.
“I understand people still have concerns about what we’re doing,” he said. “I’m the first to admit that this is not, and was never meant to be, a definitive trial.”
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Yet according to Ambrosia’s work with human clients, those who received the treatment showed levels of carcinoembryonic antigens, or CEA, fell by an average of 21 percent, Karmazin said. CEA is a type of protein found in elevated levels among some people with certain types of cancer.
The data also showed an average 20 percent reduction in levels of amyloids, a protein that forms brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Blood cholesterol levels fell by 10 percent on average among patients who had the treatment, which involves administering two liters of blood plasma to patients aged 35 and older over a period of four hours. The plasma is provided by people between the ages of 16 and 25.
Karmazin’s work with human clients follows studies which showed that injections of young mouse blood plasma had a rejuvenating effect on older mice, including improvements in memory, learning, and the development of brain cells.
Outside experts, however, said Ambrosia’s data should be treated skeptically until more rigorous studies have been done.
While the new results are “interesting,” they “do not have scientific value,” Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray, a professor of neurology at Stanford University who led a 2014 young mouse blood study and gave in 2015 a TED lecture on the subject, wrote in an email to Seeker.
Press reports lending the treatment too much credibility risk raising “false hope in people with serious diseases, in my view,” Wyss-Coray wrote. “We will need controlled studies reviewed through established peer-review channels to add credibility to the findings.”
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Karmazin said he’d like to see a more scientifically rigorous study in human patients, but hasn’t been able to raise enough funds to execute one — because human blood can’t be patented, he said.
“I’ve talked to lots of investors about this, and no one’s interested in investing in a real clinical trial,” he said. “Unfortunately those cost many millions of dollars. There’s no one who wants to pay to do that because they can’t then patent it.”
Karmazin said he believes the process works by prompting the body to start producing healthy proteins as if it were younger.
“Essentially what’s going on is that young people make lots of very healthy proteins,” said Karmazin. “These proteins are essential for the functioning of our bodies. As you get older, you don’t make enough of these.”
He added, “We’re not just providing new proteins. That would have a limited effect.”
Ambrosia’s process appears to help “the body start to produce more of these healthy proteins,” and “jumpstarts the body’s ability to repair itself,” he said.
“In the mice, it doesn’t just slow aging — it reverses aging,” Karmazin said. “It will take time to show this in people. But, yeah, I think that’s what’s going on. I think people are getting younger.”
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