- A controversial blood-transfusion startup called Ambrosia was offering to fill a person’s veins with the blood of young people for $US8,000, despite little to no hard evidence that the procedure has any health benefits.
- The company has now shut down, according to emails sent by the founder and viewed by Business Insider. Ambrosia’s founder confirmed the closure in a statement to Business Insider.
- It’s been a rocky few months for Ambrosia: In February after an FDA warning, Ambrosia said it had halted operations. Then in June, the founder said it was back up and running.
- As Business Insider has previously reported, several researchers have warned against the procedure – including those whose original science inspired it.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s been a rocky few months for a startup hawking young blood.
The company, called Ambrosia, says it shut down after the FDA warned against the procedure, according to emails between the founder and a potential customer that Business Insider viewed on Wednesday.
There’s no scientific evidence that shows that infusions of blood from young people can boost health. Several experts who have spoken with Business Insider about the process in the past have raised red flags.
The company’s founder isn’t giving up on the idea of blood transfusions, however. He has started another company called Ivy Plasma, according to the email from founder Jesse Karmazin, which is dated Tuesday. The new company will provide transfusions not limited to those from young people, Karmazin said.
Ambrosia had been offering to fill a person’s veins with young blood for $US8,000 for a litre. In February, the company said it had stopped providing the procedure after the US Food and Drug Administration warned against such treatments.
Then in June, Karmazin told customers his startup was back up and running in San Francisco and Tampa, Florida, according to emails that Business Insider viewed. The procedure appeared to be legal: Because the FDA has approved blood transfusions for emergencies like car crashes and other life-saving procedures, Ambrosia was able to peddle the services as off-label treatments.
According to a new email from Karmazin, the company has now been “dissolved.” As a reason, Karmazin cited the FDA’s February statement and said the agency was only allowing off-label blood infusions to continue as part of a program known as an investigational new drug application, or IND.
An FDA spokesperson could not confirm or deny to Business Insider whether Ambrosia had been a part of the program.
Karmazin previously told Business Insider that he was charging $US8,000 for 1 litre of young blood or $US12,000 for 2 litres. He also said the transfusions were safe and reliable, despite little to no hard scientific evidence demonstrating either its safety or its benefits.
In a statement to Business Insider on Wednesday, he said a new company called Ivy Plasma will now provide blood transfusions that are not age-specific:
“The FDA considers age-specified plasma (i.e. young plasma) to be a new drug. Ivy Plasma is not offering young plasma, only plasma,” Karmazin said the statement.
Experts warn against such blood transfusions. Irina Conboy, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley who studies young blood transfusions in mice, told Business Insider on Wednesday that the treatments can be dangerous because they don’t fall under professional oversight.
“Blood as a drug is not a regulated product,” Conboy said. “People should know what they’re being exposed to, what’s in it, and what the side effects might be. And right now they don’t.”
A single employee and a clinical trial with no published results
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia and claimed that infusing older patients with younger blood could help conquer ageing by rejuvenating the body’s organs.
In the fall, Karmazin – who is not a licensed medical practitioner but graduated from Stanford Medical School – told Business Insider he planned to open the first Ambrosia clinic in New York City by the end of the year.
That didn’t happen. Instead, he later said, the sites where customers could get the procedure included Los Angeles; San Francisco; Tampa, Florida; Omaha, Nebraska; and Houston, Texas. At one point, Ambrosia revamped its website with a list of clinic locations and said it was accepting payments for the procedure via PayPal.
In 2017, Ambrosia enrolled people in a clinical trial designed to find out what happens when the veins of adults are filled with blood from younger people. The results of that study have not been made public.
The two-day experiment involved giving patients 1.5 litres of plasma from a donor between the ages of 16 and 25. It was conducted with David Wright, a physician who owns a private intravenous-therapy center in Monterey, California. Before and after the infusions, participants’ blood was tested for a handful of biomarkers, or measurable biological substances and processes thought to provide a snapshot of health and disease.
Trial participants paid $US8,000, the same price as one of the procedures listed on Ambrosia’s website.
Young blood and anti-ageing: Are there any benefits?
The science on whether infusions of young blood plasma could help fight ageing remains murky at best.
In early experiments in mice, Tony Wyss-Coray, a director of the Alzheimer’s research center at Stanford University Medical School who founded a longevity startup focused on blood plasma called Alkahest, found that swapping old blood plasma for young blood plasma appeared to provide some limited cognitive benefits. The 150-year-old surgical technique he used, parabiosis, involves exchanging the blood of two living organisms.
But Alkahest’s work is very different from Ambrosia’s. Its researchers aim to develop drugs for age-related diseases that are inspired by their work with plasma; they are not looking to open a clinic.
This story has been updated to include comments from Ambrosia’s founder.
Have you received an infusion from Ambrosia or another company, or considered one? Email this reporter at [email protected]