No matter if you think of it as a dream come true or a nightmare, the idea of living forever is one that's had a lot of staying power in society's mind. Even in pop culture, we see a number of fantasy or science-fiction characters experience immortality, though whether or not they struggle with it depends on their attitude.
With how much modern science has advanced over the last few decades, this idea of immortality is not one that's going to disappear anytime soon, especially when there are those still spending obscene amounts of money trying to make it happen.
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To Live Forever
The myth of immortality has existed in some iteration for centuries now. From the fountain of youth to modern medical research into the secrets of eternal life, people are itching to learn how to live forever.
Well, some people are, anyway. Many of us are comfortable with the life we're given, but some are less than satisfied by all the things that come along with it, namely aging.
In fact, some people are going to extremes to regain the youth already passed them by.
His Life's Work
Bryan Johnson is a silicone valley tech mogul and the entrepreneur behind Braintree (purchased the company Venmo in 2012), the venture capitalist firm OS Fund, and Kernel (a neurotech company). He's deeply entrenched in the world of tech and biology, bringing it out of the professional and into his personal life by dedicating his waking hours to the pursuit of eternal youth.
The lengths he's gone to achieve this are shocking to most, as he spends millions of dollars a year and spends the majority of his time monitoring his functions so his team of 30 doctors can use his body to unlock the secret of immortality.
Piece By Piece
Bryan is physically 45 years old, but if you ask him his age, he'll begin breaking it down based on his functions and individual parts—as he did in an NBC News interview earlier this year. He describes his diaphragm strength as being that of an 18-year-old, his hearing in his left ear the equivalent to a 63-year-old's due to some hearing damage he suffered as a child, and his heart a collective 37 years old.
He spends hours a day exercising, often hooked up to various pieces of equipment to monitor and accurately age his body's processes, and takes 52 supplement pills every morning, all with the hopes that he can de-age his body.
The most shocking of his anti-aging techniques involves his 17-year-old son, Talmage, and his 70-year-old father, Richard. The three swap blood, with Bryan receiving Talmage's blood and Richard receiving Bryan's.
Bryan used to get younger blood transfusions from an anonymous donor, but has now welcomed his son into the process. Richard once said that receiving a blood transfusion from his ultra-healthy son "felt like winning the lottery."
Each session, the three have a liter (roughly 20%) of their blood removed then deconstructed into its base parts, liquid plasma and red blood cells.
Those collected liters are then pumped back into the veins of the next oldest member, with Talmage not receiving any new blood at all. Their goal is to both rejuvenate and repair cellular damages caused by aging through the use of younger blood.
This idea of using young, healthy blood in an attempt to reverse damage caused by aging isn't new, but it also isn't entirely sound. In 2005, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, conjoined young and old mice so that they shared organs and a vascular system. These studies showed that by sharing the younger mouse's blood, the older mouse did see rapid muscle healing and youthful levels of liver cell regrowth.
Lines And Boundaries
In reverse, they also learned that by giving a young mouse an older mouse's blood, the aging process of said mouse actually sped up.
So Bryan's idea didn't come from nothing, but this is still among the first human trials of this size being done in this field, not to mention the methods have onlookers feeling a little uncomfortable.
Some claim it's inappropriate for Bryan to ask this of his own family at all, let alone his teenage son, while others believe it's fine so long as every party is consenting. If not for their own benefit, then for the pursuit of science.
Only One Step
For what it's worth, Richard believes this procedure has sparked a lot of healing within the family, allowing him and his son to bond as they once had a pretty fraught relationship.
Bryan calls this endeavor Project Blueprint, but the project as a whole involves a lot more than just blood-swapping.
He eats exactly 1977 calories a day and does everything in his power to make sure his body fat levels remain 5-6%. He works his pelvic floor by treating it with electromagnetic pulses, and wears blue-light-blocking glasses for two hours before he goes to sleep, which he does at the same exact time every night.
Return To Youth
He says his goal in all this (a measurable one rather than the more nebulous 'unlock the secret to eternal youth' one) is for his brain, liver, kidneys, teeth, hair, skin, and a few other specific parts to be all functioning as they were when he was 18.
As mentioned, Bryan does have a personal team of doctors, including the Institute for Aging Research director at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Nir Barzilai—but other industry professionals aren't as supportive of his desired trials.
Not For This
The FDA has specifically advised against people doing these sorts of blood transfusions as there's "no compelling clinical evidence on its efficacy."
Charles Brenner, a biochemist at City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles, said, "We have not learned enough to suggest this is a viable human treatment for anything. To me, it's gross, evidence-free and relatively dangerous.”
Blood transfusions, in general, have a long history in the medical field and are used to treat a number of things like liver disease, blood disorders, and severe burns, but there's nothing to prove it does anything for anti-aging in humans.
To Prove He Can
During the NBC News interview, Bryan was asked how far away we are from anyone being able to access these anti-aging regimens (should they prove to be effective) rather than just the super-rich.
He replied, "Right now, my primary objective with Blueprint is not to solve the accessibility problem globally. The objective in the earliest stages is to show something's feasible."
He's been performing these routines for a few years now, and while he believes he's made progress, not everyone agrees. Though he claims his functions and even parts of his body have returned to younger stages, onlookers say he still very much looks like a healthy man his age.
While We're Alive
It's hard to say how far Bryan's journey will eventually take him and his family. Despite the questionable methods utilized, it's reasonably safe to say that his unique desires and his ability to fund them provide a fascinating insight into the ways in which people strive for eternal youth.
For all we know, we could wake up tomorrow to learn his research has uncovered the key to immortality, but until then, we're better off enjoying the time we have.
Even Bryan says he's doing this out of an adoration for being alive. "I don't have a fear of death," he explained, "I have a love of life. I mean, how lucky are we that we exist? So why not make the best of it?"
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