Heterochronic parabiosis is the new name for vampirism


As Caine mentions, wealthy Libertarian/Republican scumbag Peter Thiel sees great promise in the idea of parabiosis as a way to treat aging, which is just a little too on-the-nose for an overvalued parasite.

It actually works: some markers for aging are reduced in their effects with infusions of blood from younger donors, and it’s actually a promising technique, but not necessarily as a therapeutic treatment, as Thiel seems to think.

I’m not convinced yet we’ve found a single panacea that works. It’s possible there exist single-point things that could work. I’m looking into parabiosis stuff, which I think is really interesting. This is where they did the young blood into older mice and they found that had a massive rejuvenating effect. And so that’s … that is one that … again, it’s one of these very odd things where people had done these studies in the 1950s and then it got dropped altogether. I think there are a lot of these things that have been strangely underexplored.

The reason it was dropped, I think, is that no one saw a way to carry it forward into useful information. You have to understand that those old studies weren’t about just occasionally giving an old mouse a transfusion of blood from a young mouse — they actually stitched the two mice together in a way that allowed blood exchange between them for long periods of time and got a prolonged exchange of fluids, proteins, and cells. This is not practical as a human therapy, although it is very Mad Max.

But it worked! The old mouse in these experiments experienced multiple benefits.

The old parabiont benefits from not just young blood, but also the young organs: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, thymus, etc; and removal/neutralization by the young parabiont of negative metabolites, chemokines, etc. These together with improved blood oxygenation, normalized glucose/insulin and cholesterol profile are all likely to contribute to the rejuvenated tissue stem cells.

OK, sign me up! Any of you young bucks like to be surgically attached to me for a while, to give me a little pick-me-up? What if I were Peter Thiel and had some buckets of money to give you for this donation?

There might be some concerns. You ought to be asking, if old blood is so deficient that it could be improved by an infusion of my young blood, and if this actually transfers some effective anti-aging components, what happens to the young mouse? Remember, this is a continuous two-way exchange.

The young parabiont has to maintain an additional aged body with poorly functioning organs, inflammation, ongoing pathologies and perturbed immune responses, which could all contribute to the observed slight decline of the young stem cell responses.

Whoops. There might be a few ethical concerns here. Also, ick.

Also, these old experiments had the problem of sorting out exactly what was causing the anti-aging effect, and that was actually the intent of the experiments — to find potential proteins or cell types or other blood factors that might have a positive effect on older individuals. But the fact that these two mice were physically attached to one another also had complicated social effects.

The old parabiont has a much more stimulating environment when sutured with a young rather than an old partner. In contrast to the old and more sedentary animals, young mice are active and the old partner literally has to tag along. The pheromone landscape also becomes changed in hetero-, as compared to isochronic pairs. It is known that pheromones as well as environmental enrichment enhances, whereas environmental deprivation decreases neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity and “mock parabioses” have not been done to control for this.

So I might get the same effect from participating in youthful activities that I would from becoming a temporary conjoined twin with an 18 year old. So rather than undergoing surgery with me, maybe you should just go dancing with me? Except that even taking a grumpy old geezer to the dance club might have a deleterious effect on the poor young person I am afflicting.

So here’s the summary:

One conclusion from the heterochronic parabiosis studies is that the regenerative capacity of old tissue stem cells can be enhanced by the young systemic milieu; however, an over simplistic vision that using small volumes of young plasma or a “systemic silver bullet” will provide rejuvenation, e.g. one circulating molecule, at this point seems unlikely. Aging is a multi-genic process, the list of potential “silver bullets” is short, and some are oncogenic. Notably, while administration of small volume of young plasma to aged mice improved their cognition, the effects on brain or other tissue stem cells or health span have not been studied. Most importantly, the positive effects of young blood on old are only partial for muscle and the increase neurogenesis is nowhere near levels seen in young brain. Moreover the strong inhibition of young tissue stem cells by the aged systemic milieu in vivo and by old serum in vitro have been repeatedly reported. Summing up what is known, introducing small volumes of young plasma into an old host may not work effectively for enhancing tissue regeneration in the old, unless the inhibitory components of the aged circulation are neutralized or removed. And notably, removal or neutralization of these inhibitory systemic factors is predicted to have a positive effect on tissue repair by itself.

Get it? The parabiosis experiments that Thiel is thrilled by were not and cannot be part of a direct treatment approach; they were part of a series of experiments that hoped to identify blood proteins and cells that modulate the effects of aging. They are a first step to figuring out what is going on, and maybe, far down the road, figuring out how to treat the symptoms of aging. It’s a method for studying causes of aging, not necessarily treating them.

Let’s hope privileged billionaires don’t start strapping up young people to their veins to get imagined rejuvenation on the basis of their misunderstanding of science.


  1. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    There was a story line on Daredevel about people doing something like this.

    They were the bad guys.

  2. komarov says

    And I’ll provide the perfectly legitimate, legal and above-board medical facilities to go with that app. Located in choice locations, that is, third-world countries with low ‘legislative burdens’ for my staff, these clinics shall have state-of-the art equipment, the best money can buy (cheaply on Ebay or the junkyard). The procedure could is straight-forward and Completely Safe (TM). First, we completely drain your aged, toxin-ridden blood. Then, at some later point (subject to delivery schedules and similar considerations) the fresh blood is infused, giving you a new lease on life (etc.).

    Disclaimer: If, while a patient in our care, you should regrettably expire for any reason, you waive your right and that of your relatives or legal guardians to your body. In these surely unlikely circumstances, your body may be used for research purposes, training junior staff or as a source for organs to be used at our discretion. For an additional fee, any leftovers not deemed useful to the company can be shipped to your loved ones, or else may be sold on the open market.

  3. penalfire says

    He deserves credit for getting rid of Gawker, a completely worthless organization.

    A benevolent exercise of dangerous power.

  4. johnson catman says

    Golgafrinchan Captain @2:

    They were the bad guys.

    I think Thiel is dangerously close to being a comic book baddie.

  5. Rich Woods says

    I’m not convinced yet we’ve found a single panacea that works.

    The clue is in the name.

  6. says

    Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle. Vitavitahemogin. Tastes just like candy!

    – Countess Elizabeth Bathory

  7. says

    Let’s hope privileged billionaires don’t start strapping up young people to their veins to get imagined rejuvenation on the basis of their misunderstanding of science.

    Anyone ever read ‘Good Lady Ducayne’ by Mary Elizabeth Bradden? If you haven’t that quote essentially sums up the story.

  8. applehead says

    Could this blood meddling have any negative medical consequences (besides bloodborne infectious diseases originating from a poorly vetted vict- uh, donor)?

    Because this in conjunction with Trump being a junkie on brain-rotting prescription diet pills gives me hope there’s still justice in the world, if only karmic justice.

  9. laurentweppe says

    Let’s hope privileged billionaires don’t start strapping up young people to their veins to get imagined rejuvenation on the basis of their misunderstanding of science.

    I’d be willing to bet a couple bucks that it’s already happening, and both my eyes and balls that it will be attempted before the end of the century.

  10. =8)-DX says

    @penalfire #5

    He deserves credit for getting rid of Gawker, a completely worthless organization.
    A benevolent exercise of dangerous power.

    Supress the press! Fuck Thiel.

  11. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Let’s hope privileged billionaires don’t start strapping up young people to their veins to get imagined rejuvenation on the basis of their misunderstanding of science.

    I suppose when (not if) stupid, callous people with money start pursuing this it might at least reduce the pressure on endangered species.

  12. ck, the Irate Lump says

    penalfire wrote:

    He deserves credit for getting rid of Gawker, a completely worthless organization.
    A benevolent exercise of dangerous power.

    Except that he did it to settle a decade old grudge rather than any noble intent. The technique used against Gawker here (subsidizing other people’s lawsuits against the organization) could be used against any news organization, regardless of how legitimate it is.

    I’m with “=8)-DX”: Fuck Thiel.

  13. martincohen says

    If you want to interact with young people, take improv classes.

    I highly recommend it.

  14. robro says

    Even way back then a writer of one of the bibles knew better: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

  15. says

    Another comic book example of this idea is the short lived Atlas Comics series Planet of the Vampires from the mid 70s. Members of an expedition to Mars return home after a nuclear war, only to find that the survivors have split into two groups, one of which requires the blood of the other to survive the plagues set loose by the war. (Personally I prefer Charlton Comics’s post apocalypse series of the same period Doomsday +1, which features some of the earliest work of John Byrne.)

  16. mykroft says

    This sounds a bit like a rejuvenation technique mentioned in Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love”. Total blood replacement was supposed to rejuvenate the elderly. Guess the research done in the ’50s was where the idea came from.

  17. says

    Actually for enough money, like a million a month, I’m perfectly fine with being attached to a crank billionaire in an ill advised way of reversing aging.

    My body, my choice.

  18. unclefrogy says

    I would be that the contract would be very hard to break once entered into billionaires are like that and they have plenty of lawyers and “security personnel” that can help them with any problems should they arise.
    as a treatment it is just too dark side for my interests
    uncle frogy

  19. penalfire says

    Supress the press! Fuck Thiel.

    I see no indication that he is going after the press. He is going after
    privacy-violating gossip-mongers. If he went after them for an
    investigative series on Paypal’s bad business practices, etc., then it
    would be reprehensible; but in the Hogan case and in his own case, he was
    going after them for violating privacy rights. None of this was newsworthy
    material. Gawker were not doing a public service.

    Thiel made sure Hogan could afford to get a ruling. He didn’t buy off the
    judge. The real problem is the unaffordability of justice for most
    Americans — even (presumably) millionaires such as Hogan.

    If Gawker were useful, there might have been a public outcry, or more
    support from legitimate news organizations.

    Any organization that views a celebrity sex tape as news is not a news

    The Intercept may have supported Gawker for the right reasons, but Gawker
    itself is trash. Even Greenwald wrote a scathing piece criticizing them for
    the Geithner story.

  20. sugarfrosted says

    He could probably convince members of the cult he funds to give up their blood. I mean if you assume that’s he’s necessary to stop their hypothetical over-anthropomorphized malevolent AI from being malevolent, why wouldn’t you give up your blood to Theil? Don’t want to be reconstructed by the god they manufactured and tortured? give up your blood!

  21. sugarfrosted says

    @25 Like it or not, that’s a huge component of journalism now. They do legitimate journalism as well, which you’re intentionally ignoring. Even what you’d consider to be “legitimate journalist” organizations do this and in fact worse things. Like sitting on a story that might have cost GWB his reelection. *coughNYTcough*

  22. anym says

    #23, Mike Smith

    Actually for enough money, like a million a month, I’m perfectly fine with being attached to a crank billionaire in an ill advised way of reversing aging.

    When you remove the inconveniences of demonstrable efficacy, safety and ethics, great strides can be taken in any technology. The problem is that such an approach tends to be littered with people who died or were broken in exciting and novel ways… have a read of this delightful little anecdote, for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/23/health/a-cautionary-tale-of-stem-cell-tourism.html

    My body, my choice.

    I’ve always been a fan of informed choices, but I guess you’re not a fan.

    Its too bad that “The Human Anglerfish” isn’t a particularly catchy film title.

  23. emergence says

    I’m interested in aging research and the possibility of treating the symptoms of aging or even extending life by a few decades. For someone in my position, it’s annoying to be associated with people like Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurtzweil, or Peter Thiel. Real aging research seems to always be eclipsed by crank treatments that either don’t work, we have no idea how to put into practice, or are flat out scientifically impossible.

  24. paulh says

    Oddly enough there was a Marxist named Aleksander Bogdanov who thought that in the future there would be blood sharing communities. We, the old, would share our immunities and the young would share their vitality. I think that, among many other things he did, he set up the Soviet blood banks and possibly killed himself using a transfusion.

  25. Meg Thornton says

    I’d be interested in knowing whether the predicted longevity of the donor had any effect on the result for the recipient. Or in other words, if you’re a billionaire looking for a donor for these sorts of things, whether you’d be better off looking into the life-expectancy of your donors as well as things like blood type, tissue types, etc. I mean, it’d be a pity if an eighty-something billionaire got a donation from a twenty-something whose family history is riddled with deaths from various forms of cancer and other degenerative disease in their forties and fifties.

    I’d also want to be looking very carefully at the medical history of my donor, if I were the recipient – I mean, can’t you imagine a whole platoon of impoverished kids from Flint, Michigan, applying to do this sort of thing as their ticket to a better life?

    Then again, if the medical history and background of the donor doesn’t matter… well, look to this as a “solution” for the problem of prison overcrowding. After all, criminals who are sent to prison surrender so many other rights – why not make bodily autonomy one of them as well?