Heinlein Comes True


When science fiction loses the fiction. Papa Heinlein has predicted many things that came true, but this one… 

Well, there are serious ethical questions that arise from this idea. But it’s the route that Heinlein postulated in Methuselah’s Children: replacement of old blood with young blood. It’s almost poetic in an abstract sense. Given the ramifications of it… in light of what we know about organ farming? It’s more than a little shuddery. 

From Derek Lowe’s blog… the effects of the plasma preparation on both the methylation signatures and on more traditional readouts of physiological function seem to be pretty dramatic, after two rounds of treatment in elderly rats. By the DNA methylation clock, the ages of the blood, heart, and liver tissue were basically halved (there was much less effect on the hypothalamus, interestingly). Markers of inflammation and oxidative stress went down significantly in the treated animals, and many other blood parameters changed for the better as well (HDL, creatinine, and more). The animals performed better in physical and cognitive tests (grip strength, maze test) with numbers approaching that of the young animals themselves.

This is something I’ve written about before, when I first saw the papers and a quack promoting it a few years back. But now it seems we are getting much more data, and possibly going to be testing it on humans very soon. Lowe notes in this article that plasma exchange is already an FDA approved therapy, so going to clinical trials won’t be a big hurdle. 
Sometimes writing science fiction is challenging to stay ahead of the science. Sometimes I look at the science and am impressed with the SF greats and their ability to forecast the future. 

20 thoughts on “Heinlein Comes True

  1. Wish it was legally practical to work on culturing someone’s own blood from stem cells. Otherwise, have a nasty feeling it’s going to be Omelas, though with a series of sources, all neatly dehumanized for consumption.

    1. That second study is essentially that. It’s a blood replacement with isotonic saline, and albumin although the protein might not be necessary. Forces the body to replenish.

      I also worry about the sources and this could easily go ugly places. Especially with the dehumanizing and political polarization going on.

      1. It’s frustrating, because we’ve got an ethical alternative that could work like bone marrow donations, but less traumatic. Find a donor that matches, culture the sample… not a lot of money in straight up therapy with donor matching….

        1. I don’t know the state of the art in growing bone marrow in cultures, but that would seem to be the way to go – no bio matching needed.

          Bonus – that’s how they did it in Methuselah’s Children.

          1. On a related note – I wonder if the treatment they came up with for severe Sickle Cell (and another bad blood disorder I can’t remember) would do the same thing? They took bone marrow stem cells and edited their genetic code with CRISPR so that they would begin producing fetal blood cells again, and grafted them back into the patient to replace their original bone marrow.

          2. The problem is that culturing your own stem cells was classified as a “drug” rather than a “therapy,” which greatly increases the cost– and it has to be done every single time.

  2. Now imagine how this will be used in places with even less restraint than we have. China already harvests organs, why not a little blood? After all, it’s for Glorious President-for-many-Lives Xi!!! :/

  3. That was my concern when I first started hearing about this procedure. Too many of the Davos set would probably say, “Hey, it worked for Elizabeth Bathory…and we can get some use out of these useless eaters!”

    1. Bathory had the wrong route – although had she attempted intravenous it would have stopped her rein of terror – but otherwise, it is likely to be the Haves treating the Have-nots like milk cows.

      1. Nah, why bother with using people who have families, who you have to pay and such?

        Figure out what stage of gestation produces the best balance of quality and quantity, and it’s got the added bonus that fiction would have to go through things like illicitly gestating a production unit into recognizable humanity.

  4. Various kinds of fasting are being said in some papers to produce “regeneration-like” effects; I don’t remember any of them doing testing that looked at concurrent blood donations, however.

  5. It is now a matter of ‘break plasma into all its components and determine which ones, or which missing ones, are the guilty parties leading to aging’. Pull those out of your own plasma, or add them, and you unage. Components that are the same in young and old plasma are not relevant. The resultant will not be a low-profit pharmaceutical like Viagra.

  6. Of course, in Methuselah’s Children, the blood everyone is receiving is grown in the lab. (Which means trying to round up donors for transfusions is also a thing of the past).
    At least one of the pieces on “new blood for old” suggested the next step would be to isolate the particular components of new blood that work the magic, and figure out how to synthesize them in bulk.

    My first oncologist told me they can probably get me a decade.
    By the end of that decade, I’m hoping to see a lot of miracles of 21st Century medicine.
    (I’m also hoping the socialists don’t get hold of our medical system, in which case 22nd Century medicine will turn out to be leeches and the Doctrine of Signatures.)

  7. Good grief, you used a teenager’s blood? Do you know what that means? You’re going to go through puberty again!

    1. LOL! Oh dear please no…

      Although that was something I was thinking about. We’ve done experiments with freezing human’s systems pre-puberty. They were called eunuchs and it did not work well at all.

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