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Michael Mosley: Why I Consumed My Own Blood

Story at-a-glance -

  • When old mice were given transfusions of blood from young mice, they gained significant improvements in cognitive function
  • Young blood may lead to increased activity in stem cells that help the old mice grow new neurons
  • Using your own blood for platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) may promote wound healing and treat sports injuries

By Dr. Mercola

Dr. Michael Mosley, a physician like me and also a journalist for BBC in the UK, is no stranger to trying out new techniques he believes might benefit his health.

He has gone from being overweight, diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol, to regaining his health, largely through a program of intermittent fasting and high-intensity exercise. You can learn more about that in my interview with him, above.

However, he recently shared with the BBC a new "strategy," if you will, that he believes holds real promise to curing disease and restoring your health: the use of human blood. Mosley has consumed his own blood, in the form of blood pudding and blood sausage, noting that it's rich in iron, protein and vitamin C, with nearly twice as many calories per millimeter as beer.

But his investigations have uncovered something even more interesting about blood, including that it might be a fountain of youth of sorts, helping old mice to grow new neurons.

Young Blood Reverses Age-Related Impairments in Cognitive Function

"A 16th century Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, is said to have bathed in the blood of 650 slaughtered virgins in the hope that their fresh blood would somehow help her cling on to her own fading youth," Mosley wrote.1

It sounds outrageous, but there might be some truth to the rejuvenating power of "young blood." Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, Dr. Saul Villeda, a biologist at the University of California, and colleagues explain that "our data indicate that exposure of aged mice to young blood late in life is capable of rejuvenating synaptic plasticity and improving cognitive function."2

It's not a work of science fiction, either. When old mice were given transfusions of blood from young mice, they gained new connections between neurons such that they showed significant improvements in cognitive function, including spatial learning and memory. The researchers believe the young blood may lead to increased activity in stem cells that help the old mice grow new neurons.

There's even a trial underway at Stanford University in people with early signs of Alzheimer's disease. They are getting infusions of blood from young volunteers to determine if it impacts brain function.

According to Dr. Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford University, who also was involved with the mouse study, injecting young human blood plasma into old mice had rejuvenating effects. "The human blood had beneficial effects on every organ we've studied so far," he told the Daily Mail.3

Blood-Based Rejuvenation Therapy Is Growing in Popularity

So-called "vampire facelifts" are another phenomenon born out of the potential rejuvenating power of blood. In this case, your own blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the red blood cells. The platelets are then injected back into your face, which is said to help reduce lines and wrinkles.

The downside to the procedure – a form of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy that has become popular among some celebrities – is that it's expensive ($1,200 and up for a session) and the results are only temporary. According to Mosley, who tried a vampire facelift personally:4

"… I did it and a couple of weeks later, just as promised, there were some subtle changes. But it is expensive and the improvement was not impressive enough to make me want to do it again."

Perhaps more intriguing are studies showing that PRP may promote wound healing and treat sports injuries. The therapy has even shown promise for treating wounds in people with diabetes, who often develop slow-healing wounds.5

It's thought that "growth factors released from activated platelets initiate and modulate wound healing in both soft and hard tissues," according to research published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.6

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Using Your Own Blood to Promote Your Body's Natural Healing Process

PRP is a component of whole blood that contains a number of growth factors that takes advantage of your body's natural healing process. After your blood is spun to separate and concentrate the specific platelets and growth factors sought, the PRP is then injected into the site of injury to help jumpstart the natural healing process.

According to one of the largest multi-center studies to date on the use of PRP treatment for lateral epicondylar tendinopathy ("tennis elbow"), 84 percent of patients reported significantly less pain and elbow tenderness at six months following the treatment, compared to those who received a placebo.7

The treatment has also garnered some attention for its potential in treating problems such as:

Osteoarthritis of the knee Shoulder injuries Hip, spine and neck injuries
Rotator cuff tears Chronic plantar fasciitis Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
Ankle sprains Tendonitis Ligament sprains

What Exactly Is Blood?

Blood is a living tissue made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma (which is more than 90 percent water). Your body weight is about 7% blood. Men have about 12 pints of blood in their body while women have about nine.8

Blood's main role is to transport oxygen throughout your body, although it also plays a role in fighting off infections and carrying waste out of your cells. Blood also:9

Regulates your body's acidity (pH) levelsRegulates your body temperature (increased blood flow to an area adds warmth)
Supplies essential nutrients, such as glucose and amino acids, to cellsHas specialized cells that promote blood clotting if you are bleeding
Transports hormonesHas 'hydraulic functions,' helping men to maintain an erection, for instance

There are four blood types, and your blood type may be either positive or negative, depending on the presence or absence of Rh factor (about 85 percent of people are Rh positive). It's thought that different blood types developed as a way to help protect humans from infectious disease. For instance, cells infected with malaria don't 'stick' as well to type O or type B blood cells, which means a person with type O blood may get less sick if they're infected with malaria than someone with a different blood type. Perhaps not coincidentally, regions with high burdens of malaria, such as Africa, also have a high rate of type O blood.

Blood Transfusions Are Often Life-Saving

According to the BBC:10 "Human blood is an extraordinary substance that manages simultaneously to nourish, sustain, protect and regenerate our bodies, but despite decades of research we are only just beginning to exploit its full potential." While researchers continue to explore ways your own blood may contribute to your longevity and well-being, one of the most important uses of blood currently is for transfusions.

Someone in the US needs blood every two seconds,11 so if you're up for doing a good deed, donating blood is a phenomenal choice. More than 41,000 blood donations are needed each day, but although about 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent actually do so each year.12 The two most common reasons why people don't donate blood are fear of needles or simply not thinking about it. On the other hand, those who choose to donate most often do so in order to help others (which it does in spades, as one donation may save the lives of up to three people).

So, if you can spare an hour or so of your time, your donated blood may save the life of someone in an emergency (or the countless other scenarios in which blood transfusions are necessary). Finally, if your iron levels are high, donating your blood is a safe, effective and inexpensive solution, as one of the best ways you can get rid of excess iron is by bleeding. Men as well as post-menopausal women, in particular, may be at risk of elevated iron, so I encourage you to have your iron levels checked regularly.