A controversial startup that charges $8,000 to fill your veins with young blood to defeat aging now claims to be up and running in 5 cities across the US
- A startup called Ambrosia Medical that charges $8,000 to fill your veins with the blood of young people is now accepting PayPal payments for the procedure online.
- Stanford graduate and Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazin told Business Insider this week that the company was up and running in 5 cities across the US.
- Ambrosia recently completed its first clinical trial designed to assess the benefits of the procedure, but it has yet to publish the results. Karmazin previously told Business Insider they aimed to open the first clinic in New York City, but that never happened.
To startup founder and Stanford Medical School graduate Jesse Karmazin, blood is the next big government-approved drug.
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia Medical — a startup that fills the veins of older people with fresh blood from young donors — in the hopes that the procedure will help conquer aging by rejuvenating the body's organs.
The company is now up and running, Karmazin told Business Insider on January 16. Ambrosia recently revamped its website with a list of clinic locations, and is now accepting payments for the procedure online via PayPal. Two options are listed: one liter of young blood for $8,000 or two liters for $12,000.
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In the fall, Karmazin told Business Insider he planned to open the first Ambrosia clinic in New York City by the end of the year. That didn't happen. Instead, the sites where customers can now get the procedure include Los Angeles; San Francisco; Tampa, Florida; Omaha, Nebraska; and Houston, Texas, Karmazin said.
In 2017, Ambrosia enrolled people in a clinical trial designed to find out what happens when the veins of adults are filled with blood from the young. While the results of that study have not yet been made public, Karmazin told Business Insider in September that the results had been "really positive."
Because blood transfusions are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Ambrosia's approach has the green-light to continue as an off-label treatment.
There appears to be significant interest: a week after putting up its first website in September, the company received roughly 100 inquiries about how to get the treatment, David Cavalier, who previously served as Ambrosia's chief operating officer, told Business Insider in the fall. That led to the creation of the company's first waiting list, Cavalier said.
In January, Cavalier told Business Insider he'd left the company.
Before departing from Ambrosia, Cavalier worked with Karmazin to scout a number of potential clinic locations in New York City and organize talks with potential investors.
Ambrosia's first clinical trial
Because blood transfusions are already approved by federal regulators, Ambrosia does not need to demonstrate that its treatment carries significant benefits before offering it to customers.
As of September 2018, the company had already infused close to 150 patients ranging in age from 35 to 92 with the blood of young donors, Cavalier said. Of those, 81 were participants in its clinical trial.
The trial, which involved giving patients 1.5 liters of plasma from a donor between the ages of 16 and 25 over two days, was conducted with physician David Wright, who owns a private intravenous-therapy center in Monterey, California. Before and after the infusions, participants' blood was tested for a handful of biomarkers, or measurable biological substances and processes that are thought to provide a snapshot of health and disease.
People in the trial paid $8,000 to participate — the same price that one of the procedures is now listed at on Ambrosia's website.
"The trial was an investigational study. We saw some interesting things and we do plan to publish that data. And we want to begin to open clinics where the treatment will be made available," Cavalier said in September.
Karmazin added that the trial showed the treatment to be safe.
"The safety profile was essentially perfect, or as good as plasma transfusions are," Karmazin said.
Young blood and anti-aging: Are there any benefits?
Karmazin is right about the safety of blood transfusions and their capacity to save lives.
A simple blood transfusion, which involves hooking up an IV and pumping the plasma of a healthy person into the veins of someone who's undergone surgery or been in a car crash, for example, is one of the safest life-saving procedures available. Every year in the US, clinicians perform about 14.6 million of them, which means about 40,000 blood transfusions happen on any given day.
But as far as infusions of young blood is concerned — and their alleged potential to fight aging — the science remains somewhat unclear.
In early experiments in mice, Tony Wyss-Coray, the codirector of the Alzheimer's research center at Stanford University Medical School and the co-founder of another longevity startup focused on blood plasma called Alkahest, used a technique called parabiosis to learn that swapping old blood plasma for young blood plasma appeared to provide some limited cognitive benefits to the older organism. The 150-year-old surgical technique involves exchanging the blood of two living organisms; its name comes from the Greek words para, or "beside," and bio, or "life."
After Wyss-Coray's mouse experiments, he and a team of Alkahest researchers took a big leap and in 2017 completed a month-long study in which they transfused a standard unit of blood plasma from young and healthy human volunteers into nine older adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.
Their results were published this month in the journal JAMA Neurology. Because the study was small and short, the authors were fairly limited in drawing conclusions about what kind of benefits the plasma offered. They wrote that the "treatment was safe, well tolerated, and feasible," and that the findings should be explored further in larger trials.
In a January interview with Business Insider, Alkahest CEO Karoly Nikolich described some observed cognitive boons in the older study participants, as tested by a standard screening tool called the Mini-Mental State Examination. Those benefits included an improved sense of self and recognition of one's environment and location, he said.
'The results looked really awesome'
Karmazin, who is not a licensed medical practitioner, is optimistic that blood has a range of benefits, however. He got the idea for his company as a medical student at Stanford and an intern at the National Institute on Aging, where he watched dozens of traditional blood transfusions performed safely.
"Some patients got young blood and others got older blood, and I was able to do some statistics on it, and the results looked really awesome," Karmazin told Business Insider in 2017. "And I thought, this is the kind of therapy that I'd want to be available to me."
So far, no one knows if young blood transfusions can be reliably linked to lasting benefits.
Karmazin said "many" of the roughly 150 people who've received the treatment have noted benefits that include renewed focus, better memory and sleep, and improved appearance and muscle tone.
But it's tough to quantify these benefits before the study findings are made public. There's also the possibility that simply traveling to a lab in Monterey and paying to enroll in the study could have made patients feel better.
Nevertheless, Karmazin remains hopeful that the benefits he said he's witnessing are the result of young blood transfusions.
"I'm really happy with the results we're seeing," he said in September.
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