Of Mice and Old Men: Silicon Valley’s quest to beat ageing

To understand what’s happening in the tech world today, you need to look back to the mid-1800s, when a Frenchman named Paul Bert made a discovery that was as gruesome as it was fascinating.

In his experiment, rodents were quite literally stitched together in order to share bloodstreams. Soon after he found the older mice started showing signs of rejuvenation: better memory, improved agility, an ability to heal more quickly. In later years, researchers at institutions like Stanford would reinforce this work.

The extraordinary technique became known as parabiosis, and forms the basis of efforts at Alkahest, a California start-up that is banking on being able to apply those rejuvenative effects to people, rather than mice. It’s an idea so fantastical it wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Silicon Valley, the HBO send-up of the start-up scene.

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