Vampires, scientific point of view - ponderings

Last night (or early morning, really) I began to think about vampirism, and if it could be explained by science. In the latter part of this post, I refer to a few certain people as I say claimed vampires. These people have abnormalities in their cells, and all claim to be 'immortal' blood-drinkers.

First part first. Vampires of the legends, those who die, come back to from the grave to hurt the living. This should be easy enough. To me, these vampires are only part of legends. These people die first. Heart stops, and so doess breathing. This means that their brains won't get oxygen, and will recieve demage.

Now, it is possible to get heart beating again, and breathing to work (bymachines if nothing else), there is no way (yet) to revive the brain. And even then, there would be basically unrepairable damage. Depending on the location and severeness of the damage, the person whose brains would be revived would suffer some incapacities, from inability to speak, move, understand words, to even not being able to breath on his/her own.

Now, imagine a vampire like this. Not very frightening. I'm not including the possible effect of 'vampiric abilities' mentioned in some stories (especially fiction). If it could move, it wouldn't be likely to be smart enough to 'hunt'. If it could be smart enough, it might not be able to move. All would depend on the locations and severeness of the brain damage.

Then to the latter part. I've met people who claim to be 'immortal' blood drinkers. I've seen some evidence to back this up, and even though I'm fairly convinced that they are what they claim to be (at least in the way I understand 'immortal blood drinker; a person who has a craving (not necessarily actual need) of blood, and even though can be killed, doesn't seem to get older, and can live for a long time), I'm not certain if many (or any) here would be convinced.

First, how vampires are born? Simple enough. In legends and fiction (from now on if I say stories, I mean both of them) generally one (or three) bites from vampire will turn a person into one. Another possibility (in stories) is that when a victim of even one bite dies (as a victim of a vampire or natural death) they will become one. Quite common in fiction is that when a person drinks the blood of a vampire (being bitten or not) they will become one, mostly dying and then coming back as a vampire.

Before I go through those methods, there's one thing that has to be discussed of. That is, _what_ turns someone into a vampire. Is it something in saliva? Or maybe blood. In 'Blade', it's a virus, that you get from bite. That would mean it's in saliva. Well, some viruses _do_ spread via saliva. But then, some legends say, that three bites would be needed. So, a virus that needs either just one contact, or it requires more.

Would this 'virus' (or bacterium) cause a disease known as vampirism, or could it be something else? Now we get to one of the evidence of vampirism I've seen. Mutations. I've seen an electron microscopic picture of cells of people who claim to be vampires. This 'Alex' I've mentioned at times is one of them. For your information, I study Biotechnology, so we are taught about cells, genes, and enzymes (explanation later for the enzyme part). Those cells look perfectly normal (even according to scientists (microbiologists) who checked them). Just one difference. Genes.

These cells carry mutated DNA. The mutations seem to be in every cell. Then, what do the mutations cause? Similar mutations have usually found in cancer cells. A tumor is, if it gets nutrition (and no treatments are used), practically immortal. They divide basically eternally. Normal cells can't, because they have this enzyme called 'telomerase'. During each time a cell divides, the enzyme cuts off a piece of telomere, which is found in the DNA. It's a tail of sorts. After about 50 times, telomere can no longer be cut, and the cell can't divide anymore. Cancer cells lack this enzyme, because the mutations make the genes coding its production inactive. So, they can divide eternally. According to a test which was used to detect presence of telomerase, cells/blood of the claimed vampires don't have it.

So, could a virus cause these kind of mutations? Possibly. It's already known, that viruses can cause mutations that can lead up to cancer. If the 'vampire' mutations are similar to mutations causing cancer, it is possible, that a virus of sort could cause vampirism.

How does it spread? Saliva, or blood? Or other methods viruses need to spread? Because of the stories, I concentrate on saliva and blood. According to these claimed vampires if one bite would be enough, there would be a lot of vampires running around. So, if they're telling me the truth, we can rule out saliva, since many viruses that spread via saliva, need just one contact. I think all that are spread by saliva, but I'm not sure. For more evidence, I've investigated several cases of alleged vampire attacks, and all who were bitten (by one of the 'claimed' vampires, had no mutations.

This means that it would spread a lot like HI-virus, requiring a blood contact. Again according to those claimed vampires, blood is indeed the carrier. They say, that if someone just drinks blood of a vampire, the transformation begins. In that case it would have to be a virus that can get in blood even when there's no actual contact with the victim's blood, through intestines. Furthermore, the mutations would have to happen in _every_ cell...

Many of the claimed vampires look fairly young (35 at tops, those I've seen either in real life or in pictures), but at least two have been proven (via ID cards, DNA from relatives, and birth (and other) certificates, to mention a few) to be a lot older than that. One was born 1932, but looks like 30. The DNA from his relative came from his younger sister, who's still alive. He haven't aged since he (as he claimes) became a vampire 1965.

What about fangs? Some legends say that they have them all the time, and they're fairly long, although I'm not sure how they would fit in mouth without making a few holes. Some stories say, that they are retractable. Scientifically not really possible, unless technology is involved.

But how long they would have to be? The claimed vampires' generally have only slightly longer 'canines' than average, according to what I've seen or heard. Apparently they would have to be only long enough to cut skin deep enough to draw blood. Human 'fangs' are long enough for that (generally), they're just not sharp enough (usually). How a mutation could make these... Well, basically the fangs would have to fall, so that proper ones (for vampires) could grow.

Vampiric ablities, then? Inhuman strength and speed, magical skills, ability to transform into animals. According to stories. Only in few vampire cases I've investigated have suggested, that at least 'magical' skills part might be true. Could it be that via mutations, their bodies can create extra energy, and with practice they could learn to control it to amounts most people would consider 'magical'. I've rarely witnessed these claimed vampires to show what they can do.

Then the basic vampire 'thing', blood. Do they really need it, or just want it. I know that generally vampires (energy vampires included) have this craving. It's a want (in my opinion), but it feels so strong at times, that I can only describe it then as need. According to the claimed vampires, they don't really _need_ it to survive, just they want it to end the craving. A drop of blood is enough, they say.

Could a mutation/virus cause this craving? A form of porphyria has a symptom like that. I think it was 'iron defiency' (?) or 'anemic' porphyria.

A few things that the claimed vampires say:
- Vampire is born when he drinks blood of another.
- Vampire can look younger forever, but can be killed too easily.
- Vampire's fangs are only long and sharp enough to suit their purpose.
- Vampires can live 'normally' without blood, if they can take the craving.

Something to think about, I hope. Sorry for the long post... I couldn't put everything I wanted in, and make it any shorter than this.
Before I continue, I was informed (when a colleague read this) that I had gotten it wrong. It's the cancer cells (and stem cells, and some white cells) that has the telomerase active. Lack of it means a normal cell...

*sigh* I should've listened better when the ones making the tests explained it, and shoud've asked questions, rather than rely on the info I already had, espcecially since it was inaccurate.

Presence of telomerase can be tested from a sample. The one used was similar to this:

The rest of the info was confirmed by my colleague, even though I had remembered the results the wrong way. Cells of the 'claimed vampires' had telomerase, when normal cells didn't. I must've heard it correctly, but remembered it wrongly since I had learned otherwise. Sorry for the confusion there...

I'm still not sure if that's the way it went, but I'm taking her word for it.

Cells used were red cells.

How long? Some hours. I was there when they started the test (turned on the PCR), but we were told it would take a while, so we came back around five hours later to hear the results.

I'm not sure what exactly prevents cells from starting to grow like tumors, but my guess (after studying biotechnics and microbiology; more than just 2-3 courses each) is that the mechanism that prevents normal cells from continuing growing after they have filled the bottom of the petri dish is still working. With cancer cells it's not working. Possibly the sequences controlling that are intact, whereas the telomerase is active. Just guessing.