Vampires R Us
(no. 52) How blood rituals fuel anti-age warriors and conspiracy theorists, by Stephen P. Williams
Many of us chase youth within our blood, and the blood of others. Photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash
I hate even writing this, but some people continue to be captivated by the idea that infusions of "young blood” from teenagers or younger people will keep them young.
A Stanford study of mice whose blood supplies were conjoined, surgically, showed that blood from young mice could change the biomarkers in older mice that indicated Alzheimer’s, cancer, and inflammation. Over the years, some studies had similar results, and other studies didn’t. The evidence supporting human young blood therapy was inconclusive, at best.
People desperate to never grow old (a prevalent Silicon Valley type) decided that if it works in mice, it's got to work in people (although they sought infusions, rather than being surgically joined to a young blood supply). Entrepreneurs who never wanted to go broke saw opportunities for profit. Rather than forcing individuals to scramble for young blood on the black market (the potential horrors of wealthy people seeking illicit blood donors are pretty obvious), the entrepreneurs would figure out the supply chain. Back around 2017, a company called Ambrosia -- named after the food of the immortal Greek gods — built notoriety selling infusions of teenage blood plasma, for $8,000 a pop. The company’s founder claimed that most patients “showed improvements” after one month. Business was good, for a moment. And then the FDA shut the operation down. The company later restarted and then shut itself down again.
Frozen blood plasma, which, when separated from blood, is yellow. Photograph: Ralf Hirschberger/EPA
Other infusion shops opened, and tech titans and others continued to endorse the powers of young plasma. Then the FDA issued a warning to consumers not to use the technique. First, said the FDA, there is no proof that young plasma reverses any form of aging in humans. Second, while plasma is safely used to treat many illnesses, the anti-aging treatments “pose significant risks,” such as heart and lung disease, infections and potential allergic reactions.
Meanwhile, conspiracy theories regarding young blood have taken hold in much of America. There’s history to back them up. The writers Aldous Huxley and Hunter Thompson wondered about a substance in our bodies called adrenochrome that was said to be a psychedelic. Thompson wrote about it in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the director Terry Gilliam included the scene in his movie of the same name.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This clip has been viewed 2.5 million times and has more than 4,500 comments. Many of the comments can be summed up in the single YouTube comment below.
The Gnostic Truth
3 years ago
I would bet that the "pure adrenochrome industry" and the disappearance of about 400,000 children a year, are connected.
The conspiracists blame blood harvesting on Jewish people, liberals, Obama, the artist Marina Abramovic and plenty of others (including me, probably, if they read this). It's a central tenet of Q-Anon beliefs that politicians are sacrificing children for the adrenochrome in their blood. That the substance is produced in the adrenal gland, not the blood, doesn’t seem to stop them.
It’s unfortunate, and actually a little disconcerting that the conspiracy theories align so directly with those of the tech titans. Some even claim that the Pixar film, Monsters Inc., promotes the consumption of adrenochrome.
When Ambrosia started selling young blood transfusions, the conspiracy message boards went insane. These back channels for spreading information outside the mainstream media made the young blood controversies perfect for what’s called “hidden virality.” There was a “data void” with little scientific info about young blood, so few “trusted sources” were paying attention to it. But the unseen embrace of young blood theories by uninformed Americans was pervasive.
Clinics are still popping up to offer young blood. And conspiracy theories about young blood are still spreading. I would suggest avoiding either extreme.
This is not to say that young blood plasma won’t help us slow or reverse aging in the future. But it will be the components of the blood, studied intensively and targeted towards specific “diseases” that will do the trick. Not random infusions of youthful blood into wealthy old people.
A couple of companies doing interesting work with young blood and aging include: Alkahest, which is targeting Alzheimer's, and Elevian, which is investigating a blood plasma protein called Growth Differentiation Factor 11 (GDF11), that decreases in quantity in mice as they age. The future may be filled with young blood treatments. Just not now.
Who to follow on IG
Jin. She’s been dye free since 3/20/18 and her hair is quite inspiring.
Paulina Poriskova. She’s a supermodel whose independent thinking about aging might make you laugh and cry in the same post. Plus, she’s a very good writer.
Aging 100. “On a mission to help seniors reach the age of 100 and beyond by promoting practices from the longest-living cultures in the world!”