The “young blood” research field is moving right along, but there are reasons to wonder about some of the directions it’s moving in. I’m referring, of course, to the results that have shown profound effects of younger plasma on older animals, and the big question is what the effects are on older humans. The Stanford group who reported the original results have started a company (Alkahest), and they’re starting an exploratory trial in a small cohort of Alzheimer’s patients. But there’s another trial in the works, although perhaps I should put that word in quotation marks.
Here’s more: a company called Ambrosia is signing up 600 patients 35 or older, running them through a battery of tests, and giving them a one-time infusion of young plasma. It will cost you $8000 to participate in this, which makes the whole thing seem suspiciously like a profit-making enterprise, and the design of the study makes it hard to say what’s going to be learned. There’s no control group, and the patients are apparently going to be a pretty heterogeneous bunch. The one thing they’ll have in common is that they have eight grand to spend.
There’s a lot of junk like this out there – the stem cell field, to pick an egregious example, is littered with semi-sorta-trials that you have to pay for, and this stuff makes it hard to figure out what’s actually going on in the field. Clinicaltrials.gov is a good idea, but there are times when it could really use more curation. Or perhaps there could be two levels of it – the “anything you want to throw in there” one, and a curated one? There should at least be a notation about the patients being the source of funds for the trial (which should be a red flag, in general).
There’s a saying in the writing business (Yog’s Law, coined by author James MacDonald), that “money flows towards the author”. An “agent” or “publisher” that asks you for hefty fees or upfront money for what’s supposed to be a commercial work is almost certainly a scam – publishers actually advance money to authors, because they expect to make money on the finished work. And in the same way, biopharma companies expect to make money off the fruits of their work, so if someone is charging patients big money for what’s supposed to be a clinical trial, something is off. And something certainly seems to be off with Ambrosia and their plasma study.