Ageing – one less thing to worry about?

You are born, you live, and then you die. Or maybe not. You are born, you live a great life, and then you die. Or maybe not, You are born, you live a great life, and then you keep on living. No, not talking about Hancock. This is courtesy of another one of those absolutely mental experiments that scientists keep doing. Yes, if this experiment actually works in real life, humans will be able to bump up their life span, and by no meager numbers. But, everything comes at a cost of course. What if I told you that to add years to your life, you’ll have to suck the blood of other younger healthy human beings?

Don’t run off screaming now! Okay, I like to exaggerate from time to time. You don’t technically suck the blood (sorry to disappoint the slasher genre fans), but hey, there is definitely blood involved. Okay, enough with the dramatics. A company called Ambrosia is attempting a very unique trial. It is transfusing blood from a young donor to an older recipient, to basically transfer the plasma goodness from the former to the latter. Didn’t I tell you the experiment is absolutely mental?

Is there something inherently wrong with the ambition of this experiment? Are we meant to unnaturally extend our lives? Nevermind the ethical dilemma, the bigger question is how it will pan out in our fractured and hierarchical society. Maybe, we will then finally be able to say literally that the rich are sucking the blood of the poor!

This sphere of study has an actual name – life extension science. Frankly, this name sounds like something you’d get from one of those random name generators on the internet. But I can imagine that this ‘science’ is going to be all the rage in a few decades from now. After all, who doesn’t want to live for ever? It’s already gaining a lot of traction among the ultra-rich (Peter Thiel is known to be very curious about it).

The details

Now let’s get down to the brass tacks. Basically, in the 1950s, some scientist dudes with a single mind for the macabre, tried something to solve the age-old crisis – dying humans. The research was rather ambitiously named ‘Experimental Prolongation of the Life Span‘. If you’re a sucker for details, that link will take you to the page with the actual research paper. Okay, back to the case. The scientists, from Cornell University, wanted to try out a certain technique called parabiosis to see if they could deliver young blood to an older specimen. As in any run-of-the-mill trial, some good ol’ straight shootin’ mice got picked up. But these particular ones had a rather bad (gruesome) experience. Their skins were stitched together and voila, over time, the blood vessels joined together and the young blood flowed into the older one and vice-versa. And, guess what? Certain compounds from the young blood started rejuvenating the cells in the older mouse. As simple as that – ta da! Cut back to the present day – some other scientist dudes picked up from where the Cornells left off. They were able to pinpoint exactly what made this rejuvenation possible. Say hello to a protein called GDF11, which, even when introduced on its own into the cells of ageing mice worked wonders with different functions in their bodies and pretty much told ageing to piss off.

Man vs. Mouse

Now, now, now. If it works on mice, it will darn well work on us too, right? Well, we don’t know that yet. GDF11 is the miracle compound for mice, it could be something else for us. I’m sure we (read the really rich people) will know soon enough. Keeping my extremely pessimistic temperament to one side, I’m all for innovations that help drive our race forward. Experts state that this technique can ultimately lead to treatments for disorders like Alzheimer’s. That’d be so awesome.

But this is going to be really expensive, don’t you think? And, where are you going to find young and willing blood donors? It all makes for very shady circumstances. Hell, this could even end up being a multi-billion dollar illegal industry – selling young blood on the Darknet, if you will. Over the top, I know. But that’s the world we live in these days.

Like the hundreds of innovations that have been going around in the last few years, this could potentially change the meaning of life for us. Let’s hope it’s allowed to stay true to its purpose and all of us get to profit from the good stuff.

And you know what? The guys at Ambrosia are currently recruiting participants.

  • Deepshri

    The post reminded me of the movie Mad Max : Fury Road where the War Boys use Blood Bags to prolong their lives. This experiment sounds more like a glimpse of a dystopian society, say, fifty years from now because let’s face it- the world will not be much of a fair place once this becomes a reality.
    Keeping all that apart – Interesting read! Got me curious enough.

    • Thanks, Deepshri. True, the Mad Max era is very much plausible. Let’s hope it’s not that way!

  • Smitha

    Interesting read! If this is going to be a reality, then very soon we will have humans depriving earth of its natural resources at a faster pace. Secondly, this may be the cure for a lot of ailments.

    • Thanks, Smith! Yeah, let’s hope this works for the good!

  • Suresh

    The question is.. Do you want to extend your youth or your life??

    • Extending youth makes more sense than life in general, does it not?

  • Sanjay

    So well written
    everyone must accept that age will age and age is not always flattering ….as they say
    “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exists, that is all 🙂

    • Thanks, Sanjay.

      Ageing is indeed a hard truth.