Vampire Therapy?

HEALTH

A trio of scientific papers show that infusing elderly mice with the blood of young mice can reverse many of the mental and physical impairments of growing old. (National Geographic News)

A certain Transylvanian count has known about this for more than 100 years . . .

Donated blood from healthy young people may help combat diseases associated with aging, such as Alzheimer's and heart enlargement. Photograph by ICSident, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Proteins in the blood of healthy young people may help combat diseases associated with aging, such as Alzheimer’s and heart enlargement.
Photograph by ICSident, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Discussion Ideas

  • Read “This Day in Geographic History: Dracula Published,” which outlines the major influences on Bram Stoker’s creation of the legendary count. Compare the macabre tales with the recent studies on blood infusions and the aging process. Does the relationship between blood and aging seem to resemble the real-life Dracula, Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler)? Elizabeth Bathory, the “Blood Countess”? Or entirely fictional vampire legends?
    • Give this one to Team Edward, if only by default. Vampires, entirely fictional supernatural creatures, drink blood to retain youth. The scientific studies found a correlation between healthier older mice and an infusion of the blood of young mice.
    • As his name implies, Vlad the Impaler is accused of sticking his enemies on long wooden spikes—a habit that had nothing to do with drinking blood or maintaining health. Elizabeth Bathory is accused of having young women killed and bathing in their blood to retain her own youth. Disgusting, yes, but not an effective anti-aging agent.
  • Take a look at these real-life vampires: a mosquito and a bat. Did scientists study these animals in their research? Could people actually drink blood the way these creatures do?
    • NO, and NO!
      • The scientists studied the correlation between health issues associated with aging in mice (such as heart disease) and infusions of the blood of younger mice. This has nothing to do with why mosquitoes and vampire bats extract blood from their victims. Those animals are actually ingesting blood for nourishment—food.
      • People could absolutely not drink blood without getting seriously ill. Blood is toxic. Specifically, blood has a lot of iron in it. People can’t really digest or excrete excess iron. Iron overload, called haemochromatosis, can cause liver damage, lung damage, damage to the nervous system, and low blood pressure. The most common and effective treatment of iron overload is . . . bloodletting.

 

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