Fetal cells were taken from a pregnant sheep and injected into the scrawny pope. Over time, Pius received a series of shots. The Holy Patient felt rejuvenated; Niehans was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in thanks. But if the treatments worked at all, it wasn’t for long: Pius died four years later.
Niehans’ Clinique La Prairie is still in business, charging tens of thousands of dollars for its weeklong “revitalization program.” But today the death-phobic elite demand more scientifically sound approaches. Investor Peter Thiel is reportedly “really interested” in the blood of the young. Based on an old idea called parabiosis, the therapy excited new enthusiasm after a 2013 paper showed that a protein richly abundant in young blood made old mice stronger. For $8,000, a company named Ambrosia will now infuse older patients with the blood serum of donors aged 16 to 25.