Vampires, it seems, have gone mainstream. According to The New York Post, “drinking young people’s blood could help you live longer and prevent age-related diseases.” (It could also cause you to develop sensitivity to light, sleep in some unusual places, and morph into a small flying rodent, but beggars can’t be choosers.) Actually, though, the Post’s claim is somewhat misleading. Patients don’t really have to drink the blood, they can receive it via transfusion. Technology has advanced, it seems, even for vampires.
Jesse Karamazin, the California “doctor” behind this anti-aging regimen, doesn’t actually have a license to practice medicine, but that hasn’t stopped his “patients” from buying what he’s selling. For $8,000, anyone 35 or older can receive an infusion of 2.5 liters of teenage blood which Karamzin claims will have “miraculous results.” The blood — or, more specifically, the plasma — comes from people aged 16 to 25 who volunteered to donate their plasma (perhaps in order to stop Karamazin from resorting to the traditional method of kidnapping beautiful virgins).
There actually is some evidence for this kind of thing working. A recent study in the science journal Nature, conducted by researchers from University College London, found that blood from younger animals helps protect against age-related ailments in older animals. Geneticist Dame Linda Partridge believes we have “an ethical imperative to cure illness where we find it,” and that this treatment could help eliminate illnesses related to aging.
Of course, this concept has not actually been proven to work in humans (unless you count the centuries of successful blood “transfusions” performed by members of the undead community). Regardless of this fact, Karamazin says, “I think the animal and retrospective data is compelling, and I want this treatment to be available to people.” To this end, Karamazin founded Ambrosia — named for the food of the immortal gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. Karamazin doesn’t claim to make his patients immortal, but he does claim to effectively reverse the aging process (otherwise known as becoming “undead”).
Karamazin — working with a disgraced physician named David C. Wright — has conducted “trials” of his procedure, administering it to seventy paying customers all over the age of 35. But many in the medical community have serious doubts about Karamazin’s claims and his methods. Irina Conboy, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, points out that Karamazin’s data is useless because he hasn’t used a control group of any kind. But Karamazin says it wouldn’t be fair to offer some of his patients a placebo since all of them are paying customers.
Conboy says Karamazin is “preying upon” people who are looking for miracle cures. “You’ll see them at some meetings—people in the audience who open satchels of strange food.” (At least preying on paying customers is a step up from the outdated practices exposed by — among others — Jonathan and Mina Harker.)
Other real doctors are concerned with the safety of the procedure, given that blood transfusions can cause hives, lung injury, or deadly infections in people who don’t actually need them. (Presumably drinking the blood — as The New York Post suggests — would not have these side effects. But, of course, that would be barbaric.)
While many people view aging — and its effects — as inevitable, others are looking for a cure. For Karamazin’s patients, the potential rewards of these blood transfusions outweigh the risks. (After all, there’s quite a lot at stake.)