“Bring in the young blood.” That’s the battle cry every different type of sporting team yells when they want an influx of new energy, enthusiasm and revitalized effort. Or when an organization gets stale and wants a new approach to the world of competition. These calls for young blood are figurative, not literal.
That said, if you want to look and feel younger, there’s a literal call for teenage blood amid some circles in cosmetic and plastic surgery that has patients and some doctors whispering.
The New Fountain of Youth?
Since time has been recorded, we have been looking for the fountain of youth. Cleopatra used donkey milk to bathe in to stay young. In the middle ages, they used wine masks to stay young. Now, even though we have a little more science on our side, every once and awhile there’s something that grabs us and says this is the answer. The latest answer some people have come up with? Teenage blood.
No, it’s not the kind of teenage blood infamously dumped on Sissy Spacek in the 1976 thriller Carrie! It’s literally the call for teen-aged blood designed to freshen the looks and the vitality of men and women considerably past their teens.
It’s a ‘Spin-Off’ of Another ‘Spin-Off’ Therapy
The idea of using your own blood – filtering out and using platelet rich plasma – has been gaining recognition and popularity for the past few years. The process, commonly called PRP, is being used for everything from joint rejuvenation to hair transplantation.
“We do have some things now as plastic surgeons that we can offer patients that not only can reverse that, but actually start to regrow hair,” Dr. Parson tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “And platelet rich plasma is a way to do that. We take some of the patient’s own blood and we spin that down so that we have a super concentrated collection of their own platelets. It has five different types of growth factors. We can then reapply it to the patient in multiple procedures and drive in a super concentration of growth factors that can significantly improve hair restoration.”
Why not ‘Borrow’ Some Younger ‘Fuel’?
Using someone else’s blood, like that taken from a teenager, is a completely different and much more controversial theory than the PRP practices described.
“Using someone else’s blood to potentially rejuvenate a person is a ridiculous concept,” says Austin-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Dustin Reid. “There’s no possible way it could be effective and it could even be dangerous. At least with PRP, you are using the patient’s own tissue if you will. But using teenage blood – it’s ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous?” Don’t Tell That to These Folks
Ambrosia is a new biotech company that’s not so cynical about the power and use of teen blood for cheating mother nature. According to a report from CNBC, the company has about 100 customers, 35 and over, who are coughing up $8,000 a pop to receive young blood plasma transfusions. Participants in the trials have seen lower levels of cancer-causing carcinoembryonic antigens, lower cholesterol, and a lowered Alzheimer’s risk. Impressive, but there’s a major caveat — their trials don’t have a control group, which stirs up some doubt when it comes to scientific validity.
If the idea of using some high schooler’s blood to fight wrinkles seems super intense, you’re not crazy — there are important safety concerns, the biggest of which is that these treatments use someone else’s blood (current PRP treatments on the market use your own). “As with any transfusion, it is important to make sure that the blood is properly screened to prevent spread of an infectious disease,” Dr. Reid says says. According to CNBC, the source of Ambrosia’s fountain of youth is the blood bank, which sells donated blood to heath care companies.
The Verdict From Top Plastic Surgeons is Unanimous
Don’t do it.
“Wow. I think that’s pretty outlandish,” remarks Mary Gingrass, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon in Nashville. “Because you’re putting teenage blood into somebody doesn’t mean it’s going to make them younger and I don’t think that’s the fountain of youth.”
Up on the East Coast, one of Dr. Gingrass’s colleagues agrees. “I think the idea of using teenage blood to get younger results in someone on the surface sounds pretty ludicrous and also somewhat dangerous,” says Mark Epstein, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon in New York. “Because now you’re putting a person at risk, essentially, for using a blood product from another person which does have some risks for something that’s completely unproven and illogical.”
“Just because the donor is younger doesn’t mean the recipient is going to get younger,” concludes Epstein. “I remember as a general surgery resident putting a 30-year-old kidney in a 51-year-old man. But a little later, he didn’t look any younger. He looked 51.”