Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Young Blood

Bill Faloon – not to be confused with granfalloon – has spent his career on the life and death or, rather on the death and life-after-death and/or what, me die? continuum. At one point, he was a mortician. Then he apparently started thinking that there were better things to do with dead bodies than embalm and dust-to-dust them, and got involved in cryogenics. I don’t think he was the one who froze Ted Williams head, but that’s what we’re talking about.

Somewhere along the line, he co-founded the Church of Perpetual Life (“fellowship for longevity enthusiasts”), no relation to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But, when you think about it, is there anything more perpetually indulgent that trying to live forever?

Faloon is also the co-founded of an outfit called the Life Extension Foundation, which sells vitamins and supplements that promise to extend your life. And, coming soon, blood, which he was flogging at a recent symposium on staving off death which attendees paid $195 a piece to attend:

“Take that initiative,” Faloon urged his audience of about 120 people who had flown in from as far as California, Scotland, and Spain. How? Paying to participate in a soon-to-launch clinical trial testing transfusions of young blood “offers the greatest potential for everyone in this room to add a lot of healthy years to their life,” Faloon said. “Not only do you get to potentially live longer … but you’re going to be healthier. And some of the chronic problems you have now may disappear.” (Source: StatNews)

I don’t know if I necessarily want to live all that much longer than I might be actuarially entitled to, but if some of those chronic problems could potentially disappear…No more frozish shoulder, no more gimpy right ankle.

And then I read that participating in the trial could cost $285K.

So maybe I’ll stick with PT for that frozish gimpy stuff. Especially when I saw what a real scientist, as opposed to a mortician turned cryo-guy-o turned live forever huckster,has to say:

“It just reeks of snake oil,” said Michael Conboy, a cell and molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s collaborated on studies sewing old and young mice together and transfusing blood between them. “There’s no evidence in my mind that it’s going to work.”

Which is not to say that there aren’t folks betting that there’s life in them there pills.

Google has a “secretive anti-aging spinout, called Calico.” And Celuarity, a spinout of biotech biggie Celgene, just raised 250-large (that’s a quarter of a billion dollars) to build a “biorefinery” that’s going to use placentas “to delay the aging process.” (This made me ask myself how Barbara Hershey is holding up. After all, didn’t she oh-so-famously eat the placenta after the birth of her child with Kung Fu man David Carradine? Turns out that didn’t happen:

After Free was born, she revealed they had planned to eat the afterbirth (“It’s very nutritious”) but buried it instead beneath an apricot tree “so he can eat the fruit nurtured by our own bodies.” (Source: People)

Whatever the impact of the fruit of the placenta had on little Free, true to his name, at age 9 Free renamed himself Tom. Meanwhile, David Carradine died of autoerotic asphyxiation in Thailand in 2009. Sorry about that triple ewwwww bit of info.)

Anyway, if you want to take a chance on the young blood, you’ll be working with Dr. Dipnarine Maharaj.

The study, which he describes as a Phase 1/Phase 2 trial, is a first-in-human test, which means that it is designed to evaluate only whether the experimental therapy is safe. But in his remarks at the symposium, Maharaj didn’t hesitate to make bold promises about what the treatment could do to ameliorate the frailty that results from getting older.

“We’re saying that we will defy aging,” Maharaj told the crowd at one point. “We believe that this could benefit everyone who is here,” he declared at another moment. (Source: back to StatNews)

Well, we do know that, at $285K to take part, Dr. Maharaj will benefit from it. (The number of participants is capped at 30, so the total take would be $8.5M. Faloon has no stake.)

There didn’t appear to be many takers at the symposium, but hope is springing eternal when you’re a fringe scientist. Or billionaire libertarian eccentric Peter Thiel, who’s supposedly interested in the young blood approach.

According to the article, no one has as yet signed up for the trial. That includes Faloon. He seems more wedded to the cryogenic thang:

When flying, Faloon used to lug a thermally insulated helmet in his carry-on bag that he’d put on during takeoffs and landings. The idea was that, in the event the plane crashed and burned, his head could still be salvaged and frozen. But he no longer takes his helmet on flights, he said, in part because he’s not sure it will actually work.

The helmet, not the cyrogenics.

All I can say is, with us Boomers having little interest in going gentle into that good night, we’re going to be hearing about a lot more of these ideas. Some of them (most of them, no doubt) are crackpot. But some of them (one of them) might work.

Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point, but as of this point in time, thanks but no thanks. Happy to stick with old blood that’s coursing through my veins, even if it does nothing for the gimpy ankle.

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