Soon Old People Will Suck the Youth Right Out of Your Veins

Someone has proved that old people can benefit from slurping the blood of the young. Though obviously when I say "slurping" I mean "by having a clinically sterile transfusion." And when I say "old people" I mean "old mice," but y'know, we're all the...

Readers, this is my new column. Dedicated to 3 AM thinking: to those nights when I toss and turn in my bed, and my train of thought derails, catches fire, falls off a cliff, and there are no survivors.

Ah, it's finally happened. Someone has proved that old people can benefit from slurping the blood of the young. Though obviously when I say "slurping" I mean "having a regular, clinically sterile transfusion of the stuff." And obviously when I say "old people" I mean "old mice," but y'know, we're all the same aren't we, us mammals? If it works for them now, it'll do for us eventually.

Dr. Saul Villeda of Stanford University—yes, the real one, with the degrees—has just presented a paper to The Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans. In it, he reveals how he recently hooked up some old mice's blood supply to the veins of young mice. Then he put them on his transfusion spaghetti junction for dozens of hours over a period of weeks. Then he killed the mice. Because that is generally how medical experiments end. Sadly, very few studies sign off with the phrase "the mice were released into the wild, where they lived out the first half of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh forevermore." No, they were killed. It was a holocaust.

But the important thing here is that, after he'd dealt with what was surely a very unpleasant morning of mass-killing, Dr. Villeda put their brains on to one of those super-fine bacon-slice machines, then transferred his pancetta slivers onto slides.

And then, magic: Under his microscope, it was apparent that the mice that had been transfused showed a greater number of stem cells in circulation. And, if there's one thing we should know from the very limited experience of science most of us possess from that one time we read New Scientist on a plane, it's that stem cells = GOOD.

He also found more neural connections in each old mouse's brain: i.e. the old guys thought in more diverse ways, they generated more memories, and they thought "harder." The transfused mice were creative again. They were smarter. They had pep in their step. Except that, sadly, they had just been killed, so remained unable to enjoy their fresh new lease of life.

In a few years time, this man could be using your blood to steal your youth.

Should Villeda's study eventually turn out to be repeatable with larger mammals, the conclusions for the human race are not exhilarating. They offer up the possibility of a disquieting collision between our most ardent needs and our most base instincts.

Never forget that we are dealing with a species here that will gladly drink its own urine to potentially improve its health by an undefined amount. Hundreds of thousands of members of this species have hunted rhinos to near extinction in the name of prolonging their erections—all without any evidence that it even works. This is a species whose elderly are happy to inject paralyzing toxins into their foreheads in the mistaken belief that it smooths wrinkles and doesn't make them look like they've just had ECT. Imagine what's going to happen now that word is out that there's a valid—if slightly messy—way to arrest your mental decline, feel better, and look perkier. And it actually, really, honest-to-god, fucking works.

Human nature being what it is, what will happen first if youth-fusion is made possible, is that every government in the world will move to make it illegal. Secondly, a load of waifs and strays will start turning up in a neighborhood near you, touching their veins suggestively, loitering on street corners, waiting for Gramps to come along in his blue Honda Civic, take them to a secluded spot, unhook the dialysis machine from the boot and—for a few of hundred dollars—transfuse the life out of them.

For all our faux-outrage, the practice will become endemic. Firstly, because the people with the most power in society will be those with the vanity and the money to want to do it. Mild-mannered congressmen from Ohio will profess their disgust at the front door of their homes, while, round the back, some crusty fresh off the Greyhound is waiting with two pints of warm-red, looking for a fat hypo, and a length of rubber hose to leak from. Secondly, the practice will take off because there are strong social benefits—like not having Gramps accidentally drive through the glass frontage of the local Nationwide on his 78th birthday.

Behind their hands, everyone will be adopting the Dutch attitude. Willling buyer, willing seller; no problem, we're liberal. Of course, some bleeding hearts will watch the first Panorama about Vietnamese blood farms full of blanched tweens lolling in cots, servicing the intravenous needs of rich Westerners, and get very antsy. But, as ever, once these folk have bought the wristband, most of the fight will have gone out of them.

Even the teens themselves will be into it. Selling a few pints will become a kind of glamorous prostitution you can occasionally talk about when discussing how hard-up you once were, kinda like when The Libertines went around saying they had been rent boys.

Aside from Stanford's tragic mice, this month also revealed some other news that's going to change the shape of our society and possibly even our morality. In October 2012, Britain has the lowest death rate it has ever recorded. Now, I'm no expert on social policy, but it seems that the way the system has worked throughout history has relied on old people eventually dying. That way, the people being born are ultimately able to buy houses, get jobs, move up, and so on.

Their ongoing refusal to die, however, means that unfortunately they're going to end up with everything. The Western world will accelerate down its present trajectory towards becoming one massive pyramid scheme for the aged, where entire economies are caught up in pursuit of maintaining their vast pension black holes.

The final piece of the pie is that the generation that got all the free education, all the social mobility, all the property, the full employment, the gold-plated pensions, the high quality rock music, the pre-AIDS sex, and the best bits of the deferential society, will now be able to use all the power they have been allowed to accrue to come back for the one thing that can give them what they lack: young blood. Some might say there's a metaphor there. 

Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes