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Bryan Johnson has established himself as a pioneer in the hunt for longevity through Project Blueprint. This is a program specifically curated for his body to improve every aspect of himself. In this program, Johnson and his team push boundaries to find the “fountain of youth”. This has led to him embarking on something new: a multi-generational plasma exchange, the first of its kind. 

What Is Plasma?

Plasma is essentially a part of your blood. While white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are important to body function, plasma also plays a key role. In fact, it is the largest part of your blood, adding up to more than half (about 55%) of its overall content. It is a light yellow liquid component of the blood where blood cells are absent. 

Plasma’s Role in Bodily Functions 

While it is an often-forgotten part of the blood, it plays several important bodily functions. These include:

  • Blood clotting: It contains fibrinogen, thrombin, factor X, and other important proteins. This causes it to play a vital role in the clotting process to stop a person from bleeding.
  • Transportation: Plasma in the blood plays a role in the transportation of nutrients, electrolytes, hormones, and other important substances throughout the body. It also helps remove waste products, by transporting them to the liver, lungs, skin, or kidneys.
  • Blood pressure: Albumin is another protein that plasma contains, which helps maintain oncotic pressure. This ensures that fluid doesn’t leak into areas of the body and skin where less fluid typically collects. This also plays a role in ensuring blood flow through blood vessels.
  • Body temperature: Plasma helps maintain body temperature through the balancing of heat loss and heat entering the body.

An Essential Part of Healthy Functioning

Due to performing these different functions, plasma is essential to helping people stay healthy. This is something that caught Johnson’s eye. 

“At Blueprint, we have evaluated hundreds of longevity therapies, and I thought it would be pretty epic if my son, my father, and I completed the world’s first multi-generational plasma exchange.” 

Plasma Exchange

Plasmapheresis is the process that healthcare providers use to extract plasma from the blood. They are able to use a machine to separate red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma, making the extraction possible. Plasma exchange is when plasmapheresis replaces plasma. This process typically involves using a machine that not only separates plasma from blood, but also returns the blood to the person who is receiving the treatment. 

Healthcare providers use this process to treat a variety of neurological disorders (including multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis), blood disorders (including cryoglobulinemia), blood cancers (including multiple myeloma, and lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma), and supporting recovery from organ transplants. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

The Various Uses of Plasma Exchange

The exchange isn’t just for the treatment of severe health conditions. In fact, physicians have been using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) for years to not only treat musculoskeletal conditions but skin conditions too. Popularly coined vampire treatments, the injecting of PRP into the skin, typically after micro-needling, is said to improve skin texture and appearance. Also, platelet-rich plasma contains about five times more platelet concentration than regular blood. Since platelets secrete growth factors believed to aid wound healing and tissue regrowth, the high concentration has been cited as a possible treatment for androgenetic alopecia (AGA).

Young Plasma Exchange

In Johnson’s case, he, along with his father and son, underwent this for a different reason: to achieve longevity.

“It started with this really wild experiment, where two mice were actually sewn together to share the same circulatory system,” he shares, citing the inspiration behind this first-of-its-kind procedure. He further explains that “it was an old mouse and a young mouse”, adding that “the results showed that the old mouse got younger.” With this information, his proposal was to donate his younger plasma to his father. 

Animal Studies Backing It Up

Young blood plasma treatment and replacement as a new advanced treatment in the fight against aging has grown in popularity, with animal studies backing it up. In a 2014 Harvard University study, researchers isolated GDF-11, a specific protein that is found at higher levels in the blood of young mice. They went on to inject this protein into older mice every day for four weeks. Results from this study indicate that after the study, the older mice showed improved performance in endurance exercise tests. Along with this improvement, aging cells in their muscles displayed signs of returning to a healthier state.

More recently, according to a study published in Nature Aging in 2021, a University of Pittsburgh team reported that extracellular vehicle (EV) particles might be responsible for some of the young blood’s age-defying effects on muscle cells. When Amrita Sahu, a rehabilitation specialist, and her colleagues injected aging mice with EV-rich young mouse blood serum, the older mice recovered better from muscle injury. When they injected other mice with young serum that didn’t contain EV’s, they showed no enhanced recovery. 

The FDA Doesn’t Approve of It

However, even with the various animal studies that back the notion of transfused youth through “young plasma”, the FDA has shared that they are not backing it up. In a statement they released, they stated that “treatments using plasma from young donors have not gone through the rigorous testing that the FDA normally requires in order to confirm the therapeutic benefit of a product and to ensure its safety.” They further explained that “plasma is not FDA-recognized or approved to treat conditions such as normal aging…”

They also share that reports “indicate that the dosing of these infusions can involve administration of large volumes of plasma that can be associated with significant risks including infectious, allergic, respiratory, and cardiovascular risk, among others.” While Johnson shares that there have been several human trials since the mouse study, he does add that young plasma is still “an experimental invasive therapy”. 

A Risky Exchange

Johnson notes the potential risk this multi-generational plasma exchange could pose. He shares that “even though we completed a battery of baseline measurements on him (the father), there’s some level of risk here.”

While the scientific community has utilized plasma exchange for many years, the use of young plasma has attracted some skepticism. With the growing number of clinics offering it from young donors, it is important to note that young blood plasma transfusions for anti-aging are in the experimental stages. Also, the FDA has not approved them yet. 

To find out more about the world’s first multi-generational plasma exchange, watch Bryan Johnson’s full video below:

 

Header Image by Bryan Johnson on YouTube

References

Bauer, P.R., Ostermann, M., Russell, L., Robba, C., David, S., Ferreyro, B.L., Cid, J., Castro, P., Juffermans, N.P., Montini, L. and Pirani, T., 2022. Plasma exchange in the intensive care unit: a narrative review. Intensive Care Medicine, 48(10), pp.1382-1396.
Tian, J., Lei, X.X., Xuan, L., Tang, J.B. and Cheng, B., 2019. The effects of aging, diabetes mellitus, and antiplatelet drugs on growth factors and anti-aging proteins in platelet-rich plasma. Platelets, 30(6), pp.773-792.
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Bongane Nxumalo

As a recent graduate of Rhodes University, Bongane is skilled in content production and editing for Print Media, Digital Media, and On-Air Content. With an interest in Current Affairs, Entertainment, and Politics, Bongane is able to provide a vast range of content that is relevant, informative, educational, and entertaining.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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