A Warning About ‘Young Plasma’ Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis
Plasma is the fluid part of our blood that carries nutrients and blood cells through our bodies. Donated plasma can save the lives of burn and injury victims and it’s used as a treatment for hemophilia and other autoimmune diseases.
Recently, some treatment centers in the United States have been offering something called “young plasma” treatments. These treatments, the centers claim, could help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and several other conditions — particularly those related to aging. The “young plasma” concept, according to the website of the Atlantis Anti-Aging Institute, seems simple; repair an old, ill body by ” … simply transfus(ing) all of these factors present in young blood by transfusing the plasma (blood minus the cells) of young donors into an older patient. This way, the patient receives all the needed healing and growth factors in their natural concentrations.”
” … 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. As a result, the reported uses of these products should not be assumed to be safe or effective. We strongly discourage consumers from pursing (sic) this therapy outside of clinical trials under appropriate institutional review board and regulatory oversight.”
And not just that. The FDA also says it’s had reports that these “young plasma” infusions can involve large doses that can pose ” … significant risks including infectious, allergic, respiratory and cardiovascular risks, among others.”
Who’s been offering ‘young plasma’ treatments?
The FDA didn’t name any “young plasma” providers in its statement, but some of them can be found by doing an internet search. One of these providers is likely to be Ambrosia Health which set up what it called a clinical trial of the treatment, but participation required a donation and the cost of one liter of the plasma had a price tag of $8,000.
It didn’t take long for an article in the MIT Technology Review to raise questions about the cost, the treatment, and the Ambrosia study itself. Reporter Amy Maxmen warned, “Risk is the ultimate question when it comes to the ethics of Ambrosia’s trial. Although blood transfusions are considered safe for people who need them to survive, side effects can include hives, lung injury, or even deadly infections.”
That article was published two years ago. A few days ago, shortly after the FDA issued its warning, the Ambrosia Health website posted a notice that the company has stopped offering “young plasma” treatments.
Also two years ago, a company named Alkahest and researchers at Stanford University were investigating “young plasma.” The very small Stanford study was reported in the January 2019 issue of JAMA Neurology. Eighteen Alzheimer’s patients received a small infusion of “young plasma” over four weeks. The study was designed to determine whether there were any safety issues with these low-level infusions. Unlike Ambrosia, this study didn’t charge its participants.
The Stanford researchers concluded that at the low dosage they used the treatment was “safe, well tolerated, and feasible.” According to an article in the university’s Stanford Medicine, there were also self-reported “hints” of improvement in the ability of Alzheimer’s patients to perform some basic daily life tasks. The article points out, however, that Alkahest sponsored this study, and a company co-founder is also one of the study’s authors.
Just a day or two before the FDA’s warning, a medical group practice in Texas called The Neurology Center issued a news release claiming that two doses of “young fresh frozen plasma … realized dramatic improvements in critical (MS) disease-conditions such as fatigue, mobility, concentration, and urinary control.” When I looked for supporting background of these claims on the group’s website, I could only find a statement that “full lab and questionnaire data will be posted soon.”
In the FDA’s words: “Simply put, we’re concerned that some patients are being preyed upon by unscrupulous actors touting treatments of plasma from young donors as cures and remedies.”
More simply put, patient beware.
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