FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out that injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters might not be the answer to health rejuvenation after all. That’s according to a statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which suggests that these claims are not only most likely junk science, but that they also pose some major potential health risks.

The idea of blood being some kind of youth restorative has been enshrined in folklore for years. However, as this Digital Trends article makes clear, it has gained momentum in recent years, through controversial efforts like the plasma treatment startup Ambrosia. Plenty of people in the scientific community have dismissed this kind of thing as being pseudoscientific snake oil — but clearly, there is enough interest in it that the FDA felt the need to come forward and offer its own warning.

“The FDA has recently become aware of reports of establishments in several states that are offering infusions of plasma from young donors to purportedly treat the effects of a variety of conditions,” the press release notes. “The conditions range from normal aging and memory loss to serious diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease or post-traumatic stress disorder. We have significant public health concerns about the promotion and use of plasma for these purposes. There is no proven clinical benefit of infusion of plasma from young donors to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent these conditions, and there are risks associated with the use of any plasma product.”

The FDA points out that treatments using plasma from young donors have not gone through the kind of rigorous testing that the FDA requires. It has also not been officially recognized as helping treat aging, memory loss, or various neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. It might additionally stop patients from seeking out safe and effective treatments in favor of something unproven and risky.

“Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies,” the FDA statement continues. “Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful. There are reports of bad actors charging thousands of dollars for infusions that are unproven and not guided by evidence from adequate and well-controlled trials.”

Will this be the final word on the matter? Almost certainly not. But it’s already having some effects. Responding to the announcement, Ambrosia has officially ceased patient treatments. Until the science is sorted, that can only be a good thing.

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