It’s a trend more horror movie than health fad. In recent years, some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley have been receiving blood plasma transfusions from young people in the hopes that the procedure will delay the effects of aging.
Turns out, it doesn’t.
The Food and Drug Administration issued a safety warning this week against this unproven and unregulated use of plasma, which practitioners have claimed can treat or cure everything from normal aging and memory loss to serious conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS).
As the FDA noted, “There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product.”
The risks detailed by the FDA include serious allergic reactions and lung injury and, particularly in people with a preexisting heart condition, circulatory overload leading to swelling of the body and difficulty breathing. The agency also warned that the promotion of plasma for these unproven purposes could discourage patients suffering from serious or intractable illnesses from receiving safe and effective treatments that may be available to them.
“We’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors,” the FDA stated, who are “charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials.”
The use of plasma from young donors as an anti-aging regimen first caught the public’s attention two years ago, when it was revealed that venture capitalist Peter Thiel took part in the transfusions as part of his plan to live to age 120. Plenty a Thiel vampire meme was created, and the concept found new stardom as a parodied subplot on HBO’s Silicon Valley.
Ambrosia, a company that sold plasma from donors between the ages of 16 and 25 for a cool $8,000 has stopped business to comply with the FDA’s statement. Ambrosia tested their treatments on mice, but conducted no formal human trials. In order to gain FDA approval, a treatment typically needs to have undergone human trials with proven results.
What should the Peter Thiels of the world do to stay young now that their plasma supply has run dry? Maybe try exercise, a balanced diet, and wrinkle cream, just like the rest of us.