Peter Thiel, a wannabe Bathory. Thiel seems to share an obsession which is common among those with an absolutely filthy amount of money – he wants to live forever and ever. Or at least, a seriously long time. The key to a very, very long life? Blood. Specifically, the blood of young people. It’s magical, a resetting of gene expression, doncha know? I’m no scientist, not even close to one, but this seems to me to be more of that age old tradition of parting a fool from his money.
Billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel said that he believes transfusions of blood from young people can reverse his aging process and allow him to live a vastly extended lifespan.
In an interview with Inc.com’s Jeff Bercovici, Thiel said that the practice — known as parabiosis — is the closest modern science has come to creating an anti-aging panacea.
Thiel — a hedge funder who acted as a delegate for Donald Trump and spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention — is reportedly obsessed with defying death and extending the human lifespan. He has injected funds into startups that are experimenting with ways to forestall the body’s inevitable decline and death.
“I’m looking into parabiosis stuff,” Thiel told Bercovici, “where they [injected] the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. … I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.”
Just a thought here, but as there really is nothing new under the sun, perhaps there’s a reason this whole “blood of the young!” business is so um, strangely under explored.
Parabiosis experiments began in the 1950s with crude exercises in which rats were cut open and their circulatory systems restructured and manipulated. Recently, some companies have been advancing human trials with parabiosis. Bercovici wrote that U.S. studies in the field are currently lagging behind trials in China and Korea.
A California company called Ambrosia is conducting human trials in which healthy people aged 35 or older receive transfusions of blood plasma from people under 25. Participants pay $8,000 to take part and their health is closely monitored for the two years they receive the transfusions. Participants must live in or have the means to travel to Monterey, CA.
Ambrosia’s founder Jesse Karmazin told Bercovici that participants experience a reversal of aging systems across every major organ system. Furthermore, the results appear to be long-lasting, he said, if not permanent.
Right. Only $8,000? Gee, I’ll be right over. Interesting that they are starting with 35 years old. 35 is pretty damn young, and it would be easy enough to fool yourself into thinking you feel so much younger at that age. Limit yourself to people who are 55 and older, and we can talk.
“The effects seem to be almost permanent,” Karmazin said. “It’s almost like there’s a resetting of gene expression.”
Someone else who doesn’t understand biology, but is conducting longevity experiments. Okay.
In an interview last year, Thiel told Bercovici that our culture is “a little too biased against all these things” that purportedly prolong life. When the reporter asked Thiel if he was looking at parabiosis as a business opportunity or a personal medial decision, Thiel said the latter. The practice, he said, isn’t necessarily patentable, which compromises its potential money-making value.
However, he said, the FDA needn’t get involved or study the practice because, “it’s just blood transfusions.”
There are rumors that some wealthy individuals in Silicon Valley are doing courses of parabiosis, but Thiel said last year that he hadn’t “quite, quite, quite started yet.” A spokesman for Thiel capital said that nothing has changed since then.
Gawker reported that it received a tip claiming Thiel “spends $40,000 per quarter to get an infusion of blood from an 18-year-old based on research conducted at Stanford on extending the lives of mice.”
Goodness. I’m quite, quite, quite unimpressed. Via Raw Story.
johnson catman says
I wonder if he realizes that “The Immortal” was just a television show and not a documentary.
Marcus Ranum says
Not in the slightest bit creepy.
No, not at all. Just like Erzebet Bathory was a really nice, misunderstood woman.
I guess its okay. I mean, it isn’t as if there are any — how do you reference this entirely new concept — we shall call them blood-born-diseases. Completely not a thing so nothing to worry about there. And reducing the status of young people from independent agents to quasi-expendable lifestyle support structures to keep a billionaire perpetually young? Totally not creepy. Or exploitative.
No, nothing wrong with any of that. Why do you ask?
Nothing to see here — move along.
Marcus Ranum says
I believe one of the popes …. ah, yes (pops a scroll of Google) Innocent the 8 -- had transfusions from young boys and also was wet-nursed by pretty young girls. That story may have been lies to damage his reputation, of course.
Lance Armstrong was a sort of vampire, as well -- taking drugs to make his body produce extra red blood cells, then drawing it out and storing it, and re-injecting it during a race. Don’t tell Thiel about that one.
This is one of the reasons I am always a bit nervous when people talk about life extension. To me, life extension seems like an invitation to have a bunch of ancient oligarchs who live, vampire-like, on top of younger generations that they use to harvest organs, etc. Edgar Rice Burroughs almost touched on that in “Chessmen of Mars” and Lois McMaster Bujold goes directly into that issue in “Mirror Dance”
Disgusting rich assholes like Thiel will do whatever they can to delay the great leveller.
Marcus Ranum says
I don’t think we can really be sure Bathory was so awful. In the pre fact-check pre snopes internet days it wasn’t unusual to float whopper stories about people you didn’t like. In fact it was sort of an art form. For example, it is now thought that Lucrezia Borja was probably not the poisoner and incestuous wanton that her enemies say she was.
Put it another way: imagine it’s 900 years from now -- what will people “know” about Hillary Clinton? Other than that she had Obama’s love child and ate Donald Trump’s heart and held black mass in the oval office (or was that the other Clinton…)
I know all about Bathory though, she’s an interest of mine. Certainly, she didn’t do all the things she was accused of, and her punishment was a terrible and cruel one, but she did commit murder and abuse the fuck out of scores of people.
Marcus Ranum says
but she did commit murder and abuse the fuck out of scores of people.
Plutocrats gotta plutocrat!
That is not how legitimate clinical trials work. People don’t pay to participate in them, they get paid (especially with venipuncture involved) or otherwise compensated. Biological experimentation on humans is a big no-no, without a carefully designed study protocol protecting research subjects that is first approved by an Institutional Review Board. I’d love to see their informed consent language, as I highly suspect it reads more like marketing material.
I’m pretty sure that would come as a big surprise to FDA. Blood plasma transfusions are not risk-free, but even if they were, any claim that the treatment prolongs life puts it directly under FDA purview.
Yeah, the FB discussion went straight to Bathory, as well. I understand she took some hits to her reputation, but there’s also quite a bit of evidence that she was, in fact, a terrible person with a horrific set of beliefs.
Besides, I doubt she’s the only one who’s tried that whole ‘blood of virgins’ spiel as an attempt to stay young; just the most notorious in our day.
Now, the reason they start trials with 35 year olds is probably because you’re still young enough to not have too many degenerated organs and/or bodily functions -- the point would be to maintain your body in this prime maturity rather than trying to recover a more biologically aged organism (apparently they themselves don’t believe that whole ‘rejuvenation’ crap).
That bit about the 18-year-old (barely adult and I wonder exactly which demographic is ripe for this kind of abuse) was truly horrifying, plus the massive issues with exploitability on so many levels… The more I think about it, the more I worry -- I mean, ‘skeletons in the closet’ is just an expression, right?
chigau (違う) says
What do these bozos think blood is?
Have they never heard of bone marrow?
I remember selling blood products in my 20s (long ago). Is this really that more exploitive?
Robertbaden @ 12:
Given that one so-called study is soaking people for 8 grand a pop, I’d say yes, it is.
The fountain of youth, apparently.
Probably, but iirc that requires a certain degree of compatibility between donor and recipient, and even then, some form of immunosuppression to prevent rejection. The required testing and the reduced pool of potential subjects alone would cut into the profits their “research” is generating.
I mean, my dad had a few transfusions done, but I guess either he was too old or the blood donor was well beyond youth, since the effects were minimal at best (if we’re talking rejuvenation).
Dr Sarah says
Lorn: Great points. And it’s also not as though there were any other possible uses for donated blood as far as providing necessary or helpful treatment for life or well-being in others. So, there are no possible negative implications for the health of others when it comes to setting up a demand for blood from people who are willing to donate.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
Wait, he literally wants to become a literal vampire?
Also, if that blood rejuvenates you, shouldn’t you then have the blood of a 25 year old again and rejuvenate yourself?
Where have I heard this before…? Oh, yes, I remember, a fictional serial killer from an old TV movie. Except now some…thing wants to live it for real.
Raucous Indignation says
Iris, you remember correctly. Also, any allogeneic stem cell transplant or transfer has a high risk of serious and life threatening side effects and/or death. Dead subjects are definitely the kind of publicity Ambosia probably wants to avoid.
Raucous Indignation says
And why “Ambrosia?” I know it’s the food of the ancient Greek Pantheon, but it’s also a nasty jello/fruit/marshmallow dessert. Google image search that crap. It’s disgusting.
Gregory Greenwood says
So it is official -- Dracula votes Republican…
Seriously, this is a biology-fail on a par with belief in literal vampires.
Kim Il-sung was said to use regular blood transfusions for rejuvenation purposes. That’s pretty distinguished company for Thiel.
Here’s the really funny thing; Thiel latched onto the wrong part of the studies. As PZ mentions in his own take on this, the point of the original experiments was to identify particular proteins and cells found in blood that affect the aging process. The scientists involved never intended the procedure to directly treat aging. While research in this area might eventually lead to treatments for aging symptoms, it’s not going to be from quasi-vampirism. It’s funny, the horrifying ethical implications get toned down greatly when you actually look at the real science behind it.
Steve Caldwell says
I’m guessing that Peter Thiel and the other clients of this doctor haven’t read Huxley’s After Many a Summer.
chigau (違う) says
So, Caine (my auto-correct just tried for Canine)
You seem to have some thready loose ends …
Steve @ 28:
Steve! Glad to see you. I get the idea that Thiel wouldn’t read anything which interfered with his quest to be a vampire extraordinaire.