Parabiosis, or the practice of having younger people’s blood transfused into one’s veins in order to prolong life, sounds unsavory—vampiric, even. It may conjure up images of the sci-fi film The Matrix, where tens of thousands of synthetic humans are hardwired into pods, their energy mined to power futuristic machines, or a dystopian society where the rich and powerful subsist on the blood of the poor. But as far as anti-aging studies go, parabiosis appears promising. According to Inc., a company called Ambrosia in Monterey, California, is conducting clinical trials wherein participants 35 and older agree to pay $8,000 apiece to receive a transfusion of blood from those aged 16-25, and then have their blood monitored over the next two years to determine if there’s been any improvement in the patient’s health.
“The effects seem to be almost permanent,” Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazin, a Stanford-trained anti-aging expert, told Inc. “It’s almost like there’s a resetting of gene expression.”
The study made headlines in August when it was revealed that Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and Facebook angel investor—as well as a surrogate for President-elect Trump and key member of his transition team—had inquired about Ambrosia’s parabiosis study as a potential health treatment for himself.
“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,” he told Inc. “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.”
“I don’t know why that needs to involve the hyper-rich. I have read about that, and it sounds extremely promising and interesting and worth experimenting with,” she tells me of parabiosis.
“Blood is something that everybody has to give. I don’t see why it has to involve only rich people. It seems to me that there are probably millions of young people who would share their blood for a reasonable price, and that it needn’t be such an expensive commodity,” adds Rice. “After all, blood regenerates. It’s not like you have a limited amount of blood. It’s not like giving up an organ where you only have one of that organ and it won’t ever be replaced. Blood, again, regenerates, so that’s a field of research that could benefit hundreds of thousands of people on all economic levels.”
The bestselling author’s daughter, Michele, was diagnosed with acute granulocytic leukemia in 1970. She passed away two years later from the disease, shortly before her sixth birthday. Rice channeled her grief on the page, penning her debut novel Interview with the Vampire in just five weeks, and included the character of Claudia, a five-year-old vampire with an insatiable thirst for life-sustaining blood, as a tribute to Michele. So the topic of blood transfusions is a very personal one for Rice.
“Maybe that will be very, very helpful to people,” she says. “It’s one of the more interesting and helpful and promising areas of study I’ve heard about because everybody has blood to give.”