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Could Blood Plasma Be The Fountain Of Youth?

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Blood has always been known as "the Gift of Life" and a growing number of Bay Area researchers are currently trying to isolate a factor in blood that may turn back the hands of time.

"We don't know how soon we're going to defeat aging," proclaimed Aubrey de Grey. "We should be able to keep people truly in a youthful state of health, no matter how long they live and that means the risk of death will not rise."

De Grey is the Chief Science Officer and Co-founder of the SENS Research Foundation in Mountain View. He believes we can grow biologically younger.

"The risk of death will remain the risk of death from causes other than aging -- like being hit by a truck," explained De Grey.

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SENS funds a dizzying array of projects, research and clinical trials. The Bay Area is packed with bio scientists looking at solving the healthy longevity puzzle.

Several startups are looking at blood, specifically the pale yellow fluid in blood called plasma.

"Plasma transfusions are big hot property right now," said De Grey.

At the biotech company Alkahest in San Carlos, biotech scientists analyzed plasma samples donated by the young and the old. They were astonished.

"We have actually now for the first time discovered that there are hundreds of proteins that change with aging," explained the CEO and Chairman Karoly Nicolich.

Young plasma is awash in special proteins that rejuvenate tissues

Very old mice injected with young plasma returned to a younger state of being. Scientists discovered how they sprouted newborn neurons in a part of the brain critical for memory and learning

"It's pretty dramatic," remarked Alkahest neuroscientist Sakura Minami.

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Stanford scientists are now testing the method in humans.

On November 5, Dr. Sharon Sha, the lead investigator of the trial and neurologist, reported some results at the 10th annual Clinical Trial on Alzheimer's Disease conference in Boston.

In a small early phase clinical study, the scientists infused young plasma into 18 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease

The goal: to see if the treatment is safe

"We found that it was safe and feasible to administer infusions of young plasma weekly," reported Dr. Sha.

But there was also an unexpected surprise said Dr. Sha. She recounted how researchers detected some signs suggesting the patients were getting better

"We found an improvement on two measures of functional ability," reported Dr. Sha.

Larger studies need to be conducted before any conclusions can be reached,

Even so, Dr. Sha has developed a new found appreciation for blood.

"It's all very exciting that there can be components in blood that can be healing." said the Stanford neurologist.

Over at U.C. Berkeley, researchers are exploring a different approach

"There is something in the old blood", said Professor Irina Conboy.

Conboy is a bioengineer and researcher at Cal. Along with her husband Michael Conboy, they are exploring how aging is simply not a progressions of time. They found it could go back and it can go forward experimentally.

They believe the answer is not mixing young plasma into the veins of older individuals, but to recalibrate the older blood of the older individuals.

"We know that there is bad stuff that accumulates in blood, in the blood of old people. So we'd like to identify those, pick out the most essential ones. and remove them." explained Professor Michael Conboy

The Conboys explained how various proteins, peptides, and other molecules accumulate in our blood over time and as we age. The higher the levels of certain deleterious proteins, the more likely a big problem. It's kind of like adding salt to a favorite dish. Add too much, and it makes the dish inedible. Too high a level of certain bad stuff in the blood, and our stem cells - which repairs our tissues - go to sleep and no longer work to repair parts of our body.

They propose filtering out levels of the protein in the blood to more youthful levels, and replenishing some of the beneficial proteins that decline in old age. That appears to wake up stem cells in animal studies, and the animal returns to a more youthful state: the heart, liver, lungs, skin, bones all become more youthful.

"You can have the person's own blood being purified and rejuvenated and returned very safely to the same person in the state when the person was 20 years old." declared Professor Irina Conboy.

They are currently working on a filtering device.

And while much more research is needed to understand if these therapies can turn back the clock, that hasn't stopped some folks from charging ahead.

In San Francisco, a clinic associated with Ambrosia will give you a young plasma transfusion for $8,000.

Dr. Jesse Karmazin is the founder and CEO of Ambrosia.

"There are certainly tech folks from Silicon Valley signing up, there are pretty much people from most states, people from overseas people from Europe and Australia have come to be treated." said Karmazin, who is a medical doctor.

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Ambrosia --

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