Health officials raise concerns over blood transfusions for anti-ageing

Image Source: Hang the Bankers

By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11

A controversial new anti-ageing treatment has seen older people receive blood transfusions from young donors.

At $8,000 for one litre of blood and $12,000 for two, US startup Ambrosia promised results with just one treatment a year.

Patients at the five clinics are injected with blood plasma from donors aged 16 to 25 in the hopes it will dilute the body’s pro-inflammatories, preventing the regeneration of progenitor cells responsible for ageing.

The startup’s founder Dr Karmazin bases the treatment from a study he performed, which saw old mice exhibited enhance production of progenitor cells, as well as brain, muscle, and liver function.

It is alleged the mice even looked younger.

But despite the founder’s claims, health officials have warned patients of the risks associated with the unconventional treatment.

“Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies,” Dr Scott Gottlieb, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, and Dr Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a joint statement.

“Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful.”

Plasma is the liquid portion of blood and does not contain blood cells.

Unapproved transfusions, which may involve large volumes of plasma in equally large doses, can be potentially fatal for people who do not need transfusions for health reasons.

New York University professor and medical reporter Dr Marc Siegel said in his recent opinion piece that undergoing “young blood” transfusions as anti-ageing treatments involves many health risks, including the possibility of the body rejecting the blood outright.

Dr Siegel also said the procedure could lead to fluid and iron overloads, infections, allergic reactions, difficulty breathing and even immunological problems.

But not only are the people who seek this treatment at risk, ill patients who readily and/or frequently need these transfusions to live are too.

Struan Jones regularly donated blood for approximately three years while he was studying in Melbourne.

As a past donor, Mr Jones said he would not be willing to donate for cosmetic reasons.

“I donate blood because I know people need it for lifesaving treatment, and as a community we need a stockpile of blood in reserve,” he said.

“Donating blood for cosmetic reasons has no philanthropic appeal to me. It sounds like pseudo-science to begin with, and even if proven to have some benefit it seems unnecessary and lazy.

“I’d rather keep my blood and not donate it for such a cause. It probably takes three months at least to replenish my blood supply fully. I would not make such a sacrifice for someone’s anti-ageing reasons.”

So far, the treatment has been localised to the United States, but there are concerns it may be introduced in other countries.

The Department of Health, through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), regulates blood, blood components and plasma derivatives, including those used in medical procedures.

A spokesperson from the department said while a medical practitioner in Australia could administer the ‘younger’ blood transfusion to a patient under their care, such a practice would fall outside the TGA’s regulation.

However, some blood and blood components are exempt from TGA regulation, including blood and blood components that are manufactured by or for a medical practitioner for therapeutic application to a particular patient under the practitioner’s care.

Regardless, the spokesperson from the department said the use of any treatment or therapy by a medical practitioner must be in accordance with the Medical Board’s Code of Conduct.

“The prime reason why it’s happening in the USA is for profit, not for health benefits. There’s an opportunity there to make money from it,” Mr Jones said.

“In Australia people seem to hold things that happen in the USA up as the gold standard, and people love following the USA down many rabbit holes.

“I think it’s a possibility it will come to Australia, although probably on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, or Sydney.”

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