According to one 15th century historian, Pope Innocent the VIII fell into a coma in 1492. His doctor, trying to reverse his condition, attempted something shocking. He took the blood of three children and fed it to the pope. Both the pope and the children died. The attempt to heal him through young blood was a failure, but this medieval doctor may have been on to something.
In the late 15th century, there was no knowledge of the circulatory system, so the blood was poured into the pope’s mouth. While there is no way to verify the truth of this story, some medical historians say it was the first attempt at a blood transfusion.
By the 17th century, doctors began to understand the way in which blood circulates through the body, and the first successful transfusion of blood was in 1665. Since then, blood transfusions have been used to save people who have lost blood through injury or surgery, but recent research is again looking at the healing potential of young blood.
In 2008, researchers at Stanford University surgically joined the circulatory systems of pairs of young and old mice. Their blood mixed for a few weeks before their brains were examined. The results were shocking. The old mice had a burst of brain cell growth. The opposite happened to the young mice. The effect of the old blood had stalled their normal brain cell growth. In 2014, researchers at Harvard did similar experiments with mice and found that young blood improved the brains, hearts, and muscles of older mice.
In old Greek myths, Ambrosia is the food of the gods that gives immortality. It is also the name of a new company that is testing young blood transfusions on humans. It has started a 600-person research study funded by the participants. For $8,000, older participants, between the ages of 35 and 80, will receive transfusions from people under 25.
While the potential for anti-aging discoveries is exciting, we could be walking towards a world where only the rich have access to the fountain of youth. Billionaire co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, has invested millions in anti-aging companies. And the Chief Medical Officer from one of his companies has recently reached out to Ambrosia. Thiel has said that his interest in this type of anti-aging treatment is purely personal, but it does raise some questions. In the future, will companies funded by billionaires be able to cure aging? And will immortality involve the rich draining the life energy of the young and poor?