Anti-ageing science has never been more hyped, with breakthroughs in genetic engineering and drug discovery pushing the boundaries of what was once dismissed as science fiction. Although futurologists have said immortality is possible, most scientists believe delaying the onset of ageing is more ethical — and research into this is booming. Longevity biotech firms received $800 million in funding in 2017 compared with less than half that in 2014, according to data from cbinsights.com. The process of taking such a drug through clinical trials takes around seven years — with the majority failing to get approved for safety reasons or because they just don’t work for humans. And some people — dubbed biohackers — are willing to dabble in DIY anti-ageing medicine and other “hacks” which have not passed these stringent tests, despite the high risks. “We know biohacking happens all the time,” Lynne Cox, a biochemist at the University of Oxford, told New Scientist. “There’s a lot of DIY,” she added.
From unregulated blood transfusions to off-label pill-popping, biohackers are putting their health in their own hands rather than those of qualified doctors. The grim, somewhat vampiric, practice of swapping blood between a young person and an older person is called parabiosis. Scientists discovered in the 1970s that fusing the circulatory systems of animals together — sometimes for weeks on end — had surprising results. The younger animal would age prematurely, whereas the older animal was rejuvenated. But a stark warning was issued by the FDA, who said it feared some Americans were receiving rogue blood transfusions. The FDA said people seeking parabiosis therapy were being “preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of [blood] plasma from young donors as cures and remedies”. “Such treatments have no proven clinical benefits for the uses for which these clinics are advertising them and are potentially harmful,” it added.