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Parabiosis: The Really Weird Biohack for a Younger Brain and Body

By: Dave Asprey

For the last few months, I’ve been consuming the blood of young people. And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s post.

If you’re interested in a super leading-edge and very weird anti-aging strategy that you can use from home, read on. And you don’t even have to be a billionaire or a vampire to try it.

What is parabiosis?

Parabiosis is the 150-year old experimental technique of connecting the vascular systems of two animals – one young, one old – to understand how the blood from one can change the other. Imagine two mice stitched together like man-made conjoined twins.

The first recorded experiments like this were in the 1800s and researchers used the technique up through the 1970s to study the endocrine system, immune system, and how tumors work. It’s not totally clear why this research fell out of style, but it probably has to do with stitching two live animals together.

Today, the more humane version is simply to use blood transfusions. And because of its potential in reversing aging and improving cognitive function, the practice is blowing up in the anti-aging field.

Admittedly, this research is in really early stages, but here are just a few ways parabiosis is changing the biology of lab mice:

  • Improves brain function and brain plasticity.[1]
  • Reverses heart disease related to aging.[2]
  • Remyelinates neurons.[3] That is, insulates brain cells with a fatty coating that protects them and lets them transmit information faster.
  • May repair brain cell damage related to aging.[4]
  • Shinier fur (obvious human selling point).

Does parabiosis work in humans?

On the human side of things, hemophiliacs (who need regular blood infusions) report feeling younger when they get donations from younger people. Researchers are starting to figure out the components in young blood that might be responsible for this. In 2016, anti-aging researchers started a two-year trial that will track and evaluate the effects of plasma infusions from young donors (16-25 years old).[5]

They’ll be tracking blood biomarkers that measure aging and disease advancement, including inflammation, the growth of new brain cells, stem cell production, immune function, organ function and tons more. So. Cool.

Based on these speculations, some people are actually stockpiling the blood of twenty-somethings because it might make old people younger.[6] (Watch out, millennials). Viome founder and billionaire space entrepreneur Naveen Jain discussed it recently on Bulletproof Radio.

Get the benefits without the blood

So it looks like parabiosis really may be able to reverse aging and sharpen cognitive function. That’s why I borrow my children’s blood while they sleep.

Joking again. In reality, it’s possible to get the good stuff in young blood without actually harvesting it from young people. Here’s what the beneficial compounds do for you, and where you can find them.

GHK-Cu: Speed recovery and grow stronger brain cells 

GHK-Cu is a peptide (a chain of amino acids) that’s plentiful in your blood when you’re young, but declines as you age. Your body releases it after you get injured, which may help explain why younger people heal so much faster than older people. Fortunately, you can supplement with GHK (and it’s not derived from child blood). GHK offers a variety of benefits to your biology:

  • Wound healing. GHK gel healed people’s ulcers 3x faster than placebo.[7] GHK injections in rodents attract immune and skin cells to the site of the injury for rapid wound healing and increased collagen synthesis.[8][9]
  • Stem cells. GHK turns on genes that control stem cell production in your brain and organ tissue [8]. This could explain its anti-aging effects
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. GHK also strongly curbs inflammation and acts as a powerful antioxidant.[10]
  • Anxiety. GHK injections curbed anxiety in rats.[11]
  • Brain cell growth and efficiency. GHK makes brain cells grow faster and strengthens neural connections, which could explain why it improves symptoms of dementia in rodents.[12][13]
  • Stimulates collagen for younger looking skin. Anti-aging on a biological level means anti-aging on the outside as well. Controlled studies demonstrate that GHK can tighten skin, improve elasticity, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and improve discoloration from skin damage and aging.
  • May improve hair growth. There’s some early evidence that GHK injections can increase hair growth and improve hair transplant success.[14]

How I use GHK-Cu

For brain function, anxiety, anti-aging, and inflammation, I take GHK is by injecting it. It’s unlikely that this will ever be available from a drug company because it’s not patentable, so I do this myself at home.

You can buy “not for human consumption (wink, wink)” GHK here. You’ll have to mix it with bacteriostatic water and pull it into an insulin syringe. Either talk to your doctor or learn how to inject yourself. Don’t worry – it’s easier than it sounds. And it’s not terribly expensive. A vial is $200, but it lasts for 40-100 doses.

Injecting yourself is not without risk. Then again, aging is a certain risk, usually ends in death, and it sucks. More rapid tissue regeneration is worth an occasional stick with a needle. No blood – mine or that of children – required! Just be careful.

To keep your skin young topically, or for cuts and bruises, you can use a GHK cream. Make sure it’s at least 2% GHK. This one looks good.

GDF11: Enhanced muscle growth, weight loss, and neurogenesis?

There’s some evidence that young blood may also be rich in a protein called GDF11. GDF11 seems to be doing a few interesting things in mice:

  • Neurogenesis. Old mice injected with GDF11 showed increased brain plasticity and stronger connectivity between brain cells.[15][16]
  • Blood flow. Mice also showed increased cerebral blood flow – meaning their brains had access to more oxygen and nutrients.[17]
  • Muscle growth. Another study found that older mice injected with GDF11 gained muscle and lost fat.[18]

How I use GDF11: Use with caution

For the last couple years, there’s been a back-and-forth on how GDF11 really works.[19] It’s cutting-edge and it looks promising, but there hasn’t been a human trial yet. If you decide to experiment with it, know that it’s experimental. I recommend talking to an open-minded anti-aging doctor first.

Maybe one day we will be able to get these with a doctor’s prescription, but I’m not betting on it because these compounds aren’t patentable. This is cutting-edge anti-aging biohacking.

Perhaps, after reading this, all you want to do is get a better skin cream, or maybe you want to go deeper and experiment with GHK. I recommend finding an anti-aging doc with a really open mind to help you out with this stuff.

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