The search for the legendary Fountain of Youth dates back to the writings of Herodotus in the 5th century BCE and became popular in the 16th century CE with the tales of Ponce de Leon looking for it in Florida. That fountain contained magical water, but today’s quests for a fountain of youth often pass through Silicon Valley, where tech millionaires fund projects promoting fountains of the blood of young people as a cure for aging. Another tech center – Austin, Texas – is home to the latest millionaire-funded get-young-quick scheme … and this time, the fountain is filled with his own stem cells which he claims have given him a healthy body equivalent to the one he had at age five. Can he fit into his first grade pants again?
“I always joke that, apart from my baby daughter, I’m the youngest Rastegar. I think my lifestyle and health give me the competitive edge.”
That’s Ari Rastegar, a Texas native and real estate developer in Austin whose firm grew rapidly as young professionals moved to the growing technology hub and needed upscale housing. At 39, Rastegar is no longer one of those ‘young’ professionals, so 18 months ago he began visiting a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, for stem-cell infusions – a controversial and unproven procedure not authorized in the US. Rastegar tells the New York Post the procedure involves extracting his own blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the plasma containing his stem cells, and then re-injecting it back into his arm. Controversial it is, but nowhere near as controversial as other methods using stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborns.
Despite the backing of medicine, Rastegar claims to have test results proving the effectiveness of this stem cell fountain of youth — blood tests to measure the length of his telomeres (specialized nucleoprotein structures on the end of chromosomes that protect DNA) show they have stretched to the length they were when he was young. While scientific studies confirm a connection between short telomeres and cellular aging, they’re only one aspect in the broad, complex and little-understood aging process – so Rastegar is hedging his bets by meditating in a hyperbaric chamber while breathing almost pure oxygen, exercising daily, sleeping on a chilled mattress and even resorting to that old-school practice of listening to motivational recordings. While all of that is obviously beneficial, it ruins looking at his bio-hacking stem cell injections as a scientific test of its alleged age-reversing potential.
“I’m in the best shape of my life.”
That’s not exactly a bankable proof of age-reversing self-stem-cell injections, especially coming from someone who’s 39. And traveling to Tijuana for the injections sounds pretty risky for someone who says he prides himself in risk-assessments. These bio-hacking, modern-day fountain of youth seeking millionaires would do a service to the desperate aging public by investing that money in scientific research conducted under strict controls with independent reviews. If they can’t do that, they may be inadvertently revealing the true effectiveness of their controversial techniques.
It’s worth a shot – no needle pun intended.
by Paul Seaburn