The Science of Vampires
Vampires. They are fascinating creatures and if you are anything like me, you want them to exist. I have studied a large amount of reputable scientific material to confidentially conclude that the concept of the vampire, though far-fetched, is possible. Below is a list of various diseases, medical conditions, and other interesting biological features that could possibly create a vampire-like being. I have explained the science then incorporated what is known to provide evidence to back up my claim that vampires could be real.
• The deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is found in the nucleus of animal cells. In humans, we have 46 pieces of DNA (half from mom and half from dad). DNA, also known as chromosomes, is the instruction manual for the body. It provides the instructions for how to make proteins. Proteins are the small chemical machines within our cells that perform various functions from movement, signaling, defense and assisting in chemical reactions.
A protein will be made when the cell receives a specific chemical signal. That unique signal causes a series of enzyme-controlled activities to take place. The portion of the DNA that has the instructions for the protein will be rewritten and sent into the cell. Once inside the cell, other chemicals will grab the instructions, read them and make the necessary protein.
If the DNA gets damaged, this means that parts of the instruction manual are now written incorrectly. This could cause a cell to make a protein that does not work. Without proper functioning proteins, our cells can become sick or cancerous.
However, sometimes when the DNA gets damaged or mutated, a protein can be made that is beneficial to the organism. If this beneficial mutation is passed on to the offspring, then the genetic information for this unique characteristic can become a part of the organism’s gene pool.
• Arguably, up to 90% of human DNA has been labeled “junk” DNA. Many scientists are under the belief that this type of DNA is not being expressed and is evolutionary artifacts.
New research suggests that this junk DNA may actually play a significant role towards an organism’s survival. It could possibly contain advantageous material for unique proteins, it could serve as a mutation buffer, it could help regulate the expression of other proteins, etc. At this point, the role of the junk DNA has not been conclusively determined though the possibilities are endless.
• Exogenous DNA (DNA from another source) can be acquired by organisms through various mechanisms. Viruses insert their DNA into healthy cells and force these cells to make new viruses. Bacteria are known for making small, circular pieces of DNA called plasmids. They share these plasmids with other bacteria. This swapping out of genetic information can lead to genetic diversity.
• In order for sexual reproduction to take place, organisms must make gametes (sex cells). The sex cells of humans have half of the genetic information (23 pieces of DNA) and when they combine with another gamete (sperm and egg), an embryo will develop that has DNA from both parents (46 pieces of DNA).
The process that makes sex cells is called meiosis. During meiosis, the genetic material is divided up equally, so that each gamete gets exactly half of the DNA. However, sometimes nondisjunction can occur. This is when the chromosomes do not separate out equally and the sex cells end up getting more or less DNA. This can end up making organisms with 45 pieces of DNA or 47 pieces of DNA.
• Hybrid organisms are made between two different species that are similar enough to make a viable offspring. Hybrids have been seen in plants, fruit flies, the liger, the mule, etc. Often times the hybrids are sterile which means they cannot make an offspring.
A recent study found that crossing two different species of fruit flies (Drosophila) would not yield a male hybrid offspring but did make viable female hybrids.
• Evolution states that species change over time. The driving force of evolution lies within the DNA. DNA can be mutated or changed from various internal and external mechanisms. As stated earlier, if the mutation is beneficial and found in the gametes, the trait will be passed on.
• Evolution can be seen every time we look into the mirror. We are a microevolution of our parents. The macroevolution of species took millions of years and is supported by geographical, fossil, embryological, molecular and anatomical evidence. Similar organisms can evolve at different rates depending on the biogeography and mating behaviors.
The Genetics of Vampires: There is the possibility that the vampire evolved from humans, or conversely that humans evolved from them. They could be a genetically older form of human that had a higher DNA count from the beginning. On the other hand, some sort of nondisjunction occurred during meiosis that led to the additional piece of DNA becoming a distinct chromosome. A third possibility is that at some point the human acquired an exogenous piece of DNA from a virus or another source. This piece of DNA could have then become the vampire DNA.
Regardless of how the chromosome changed, for the vampire to evolve separately from sapiens there needed to be a geographical distinction. The terrestrial environment of early earth was extremely hostile, thus many of the humans could have been driven to live underground. At this point, their bodies slowly responded to the darker environment and took on the unique attributes of the vampire. (The DNA change to more or less chromosomes could have occurred at this point.) Over time, the beneficial traits were passed on to the offspring; whereas, traits that were non-beneficial were bred out of the vampire population.
On the surface, man continued to evolve into Homo sapien sapiens. They kept the traits that were beneficial to them and bred out the traits that were not.
Because the two species are so similar, vampire and sapiens can breed to make a viable hybrid offspring. However, the offspring is infertile, as is often seen in nature with other types of hybrid mammals. Likely the hybrid would not have all of the unique characteristics of the vampire because they would lack the full complement of DNA in order to function normally.
THE NEED FOR BLOOD
• Red blood cells (RBCs) play a crucial role for our bodies. They are made in the bone marrow and at maturity; these cells lack a nucleus (no genetic material). Their main function is to carry oxygen to our cells using a complex compound called hemoglobin. Cells use oxygen in a process known as cellular respiration to make energy to sustain life. In the absence of oxygen, cells cannot make enough energy to run their cellular processes and the organism will die.
The blood stream carries vital materials to every cell within the body, including carbohydrates, chemical messages, vitamins, minerals, white blood cells, etc. It is the highways system of the body. If you want to get something to a cell, dump it in the blood stream.
• Anemia occurs when the red blood cell count is extremely low or the body does not have enough hemoglobin. This makes the sufferer pale in appearance and lethargic. The causes of anemia are numerous ranging from diet to various types of sickness.
• Porphyria is a very strange and uncommon genetic disorder. The person cannot properly break down chemicals called porphyrins to make heme. Heme is a chemical compound needed in the hemoglobin. Due to this, the porphyrins build up in the body, which in turn causes all sorts of issues. The person becomes sensitive to light and when in the sun they can be in severe pain and develop blisters. They can also develop muscle and overall nervous system problems.
• Celiac disease is essentially where the person cannot break down wheat gluten. If the person does not maintain a proper diet, the small intestines can suffer severe problems and malnutrition occurs. Often times they experience fatigue, weight loss, anemia, pain, and atrophy of the small intestines. There appears to be a genetic link to this disease.
• Gastric atrophy occurs when the stomach does not properly digest food. This can occur as an autoimmune disease or from environmental factors. Gastric atrophy decreases digestion and can prevent the stomach from absorbing vitamin B12. This can cause a condition known as pernicious anemia. Major symptoms include low RBC count, weakness, nerve damage, pale skin, weight loss, heart and even nerve damage.
Vampires and Blood: The pure, non hybrid vampire does not have a true functioning digestive system. Though the organs are still somewhat present, they are atrophied and only absorb fluids and predigested nutrients. Due to increased metabolic rate, the consumption of sugars and other nutrients within the blood are exhausted in a few days, even when the vampire is at rest. They must continually consume something that requires little to no digestion. Essentially all of the nourishment in the blood has already undergone complex digestion, thus blood is the perfect source of nutrients for the vampire.
RBCs usually last for up to 120 days in humans; whereas, in the vampire they last for less than 30 days. The vampire cannot make red blood cells due to a condition within their bone marrow that involves suppression of certain proteins required to make RBCs. The reason for the genetic anomaly is unknown, but could be due to evolutionary adaptation of a high blood diet.
Because the vampire needs a lot of cellular energy, more RBCs are required to provide more oxygen. The RBCs are recycled through the vampire body faster. They would need to continually feed in order to acquire as many RBCs as possible.
The blood must be human or the vampire bodies would quickly fight off the foreign animal blood. This is the same idea in which a person with type A blood cannot receive type B blood. The vampire’s immune system does not recognize the animal blood, thus the foreign blood will be killed off.
• Hyperdontia is a rare genetic condition that causes extra teeth to develop within the mouth. Usually, these teeth are located on the maxillary (upper) portion of the jaw.
• Many insects, some fish and the vampire bat have the ability to drink blood from a host source. Depending on the species, they can do this by puncturing flesh, pooling the blood and drinking it. Alternatively, they can pierce into a vessel with a specialized stylet and literally suck up the fluid. Many of these animals inject anticoagulants, which prevent the blood from clotting. They can also inject vasodilators, chemicals that serve to dilate the blood vessels to increase the flow.
The Vampire Fang: The vampire fangs are specialized hollow structures that have voluntary muscles attached at the base of the root to extent and retract the tooth. The genetic information to synthesize these fangs is found in the dormant areas of human junk DNA (introns, satellite DNA or possibly even heterochromatin). This is a polygenic trait, which means it is controlled by multiple genetic sequences.
Sometimes a non-vampire human exhibits extra teeth growing in the gum line (as seen in hyperdontia). The location and proper fang-like structure does not occur in these individuals because only one of the many genes required for this characteristic has been accidentally activated. When all of these sequences are activated, the outcome is functional fangs that are retractable.
The vampire secretes an anticoagulant, vasodilator, a mild anesthetic and chitosan (a chemical that will be talked about later) into the wound site. Combined, these components increase blood flow and assist the victim by providing fast healing to the wound and minimal pain.
• Chitin is a common organic polymer that is water insoluble. It is found in insects, lobsters, crabs, fungi, and algae. It is similar in nature to cellulose, a type of carbohydrate. In its unmodified form, chitin is pliable and somewhat translucent. Chitin has the ability to associate with a matrix of proteins or minerals such as calcium carbonate. This association will increase its overall strength. Most people recognize chitin as the exoskeleton of insects.
• Keratin is a strong protein that is found in skin, fingernails, claws and hair. Depending on the chemical composition of the keratin, it can be rigid like in nails or soft like in skin. Keratinized cells of the skin provide a somewhat waterproof covering and protective layer. In some arthropods, keratin can be found in a matrix with chitin.
Vampire Claw: The vampire claw is a combination of keratin interlaced with chitin. In the retracted form, the matrix is not bonded together, therefore the overall rigidity of the polymer is lacking. As the claws are being extended, a series of enzymes in the root bed begin to cross-link the chitin to the keratin via hydrogen and disulfide bonds. This hardens the claw into a tough structure that is powerful and robust. But, when retracting another set of proteins break the bonds allowing the nail flexibility under the skin.
• Sound travels in waves that are measured in hertz (Hz). Human ears ability to hear in the range of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. As humans age, they lose the ability to hear at the higher end of the spectrum.
The shape and length of the outer ear serves to amplify the sound, channeling it into the ear canal. The sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate which carries the signal as waves into the fluid of the inner ear. These waves activate specialized cells that then carry a signal to the brain for sound interpretation.
• Psychoacoustical hearing involves how the brain processes the mechanical detection of sound. It includes the receptor cells for perception, pathways for transmission and processing centers within the brain.
• Hyperosmia is a rare condition is which an individual has enhanced smelling capabilities. There seems to be a possible genetic link to this ability. Pregnant women often times experience hyperosmia during early pregnancy. This could be due to overall increase of hormones which is causing an increased presence of scent receptors in the nose or enhanced perception in the brain.
• Various animals have the ability to see better at night due to a reflective film in the back of the eye called the tapetum lucidum. The tapetum, along with other unique features, reflects light, giving the eye the opportunity to work well in low light conditions.
The Vampire Enhanced Senses: The vampire has overall increased senses. These enhanced senses are derived from more sense receptors within the nose, ears and eyes as well as enhanced brain activity for reception and interpretation. Also, they make different types of sense receptors that are usually found in noncoding DNA of humans and on the vampire chromosome.
The vampire can somewhat control when the eye takes in more light. When threatened, the vampire releases chemicals similar to epinephrine, which causes a series of reactions to expose the usually hidden tapetum lucidum. The reason why the eyes appear to glow and take on the color of the person’s eyes is because the reflection of light is enhanced around the pigments of the individual’s iris.
• Fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for speed and strength. Arguably, the more of these fibers present within a muscle, the stronger and faster the muscle will contract.
Cheetahs are the fastest land creature on earth. They have a large amount of fast twitch fibers and can go from 0 to 70 mph in seconds. When running at full speed, only one foot is on the ground per stride. Up to four strides occur per second. Each stride can be up to 7 meters in length. If these numbers are accurate, then the cheetah can cover approximately 90 feet in one second or one mile per minute.
Vampire Speed: The vampire has a large amount of fast twitch fibers in their skeletal muscle. They can cover short distances quickly, giving it the illusion that they disappear and then reappear. They cannot move at this pace for long periods of time because their muscles require a lot of additional cellular energy. If they do not have enough nutrients to sustain this movement, they must feed. Because no digestion is required, once the fresh blood source is within their bodies, the vampire can immediately move quickly again.
The strength of the vampire is also due to the high number of fast twitch fibers within the muscle. In order to maintain strength and speed, the vampire requires a high metabolic rate. This increases the overall core body temperature.
ENHANCED IMMUNE SYSTEM
• The human immune system consists of various components that are designed to protect the body from harm. The white blood cells (WBCs) are one of the major players within the immune system. The WBCs use proteins to recognize other cells of the body, and when they do not recognize a cell, the invader will be killed using various methods. Using antibodies that are made by specialized white blood cells, the body can acquire long-term immunity to various pathogens.
• There are various proteins involved in wound healing. The presence or absence of a specific type of protein can increase or decrease the healing rate.
• Chitosan is a biostimulant that is derived from chitin. It has a film-generating capacity that can use for coating items or as a filler. It is water insoluble and important for structural support in living organisms.
Chitosan has properties that seem to increase wound healing. Chitosan increases the clotting of blood, has antibacterial functions, and seems to lower cholesterol levels in the body.
The Vampire Immune System: The vampire utilizes chitosan within their bodies to enhance their overall immune systems. They produce not only the typical human proteins involved in wound healing, but they also produce special proteins that are only found on the vampire DNA strand and in the junk DNA. These special polymers cause rapid skin regeneration, and increased mitotic activity at wound sites. With the increased metabolic rate and various unique proteins, the vampire can heal at an astronomical rate. What would normally take days to heal, could take a matter of seconds assuming the vampire is healthy and has plenty of nutrients.
The vampire acquires all of the immunities that are within the blood they consume. Because the vampire will feed upon each other for nutrients and pleasure, they will also share immunity in this fashion as well. This sharing of blood is similar to the concept of vaccination. Most vampires have immunity to almost every common pathogen causing disease.
The vampire can get sick, but it is highly unlikely due to their advanced immune system. Though arguably they could have genetic issues, it is possible that the additional vampire DNA strand has protective mechanisms against cancer or other genetic issues.
• Ultraviolet light is not a part of the visible spectrum and cannot be seen by humans. It has been known to cause damage to DNA by causing the base thymine to bond directly to another thymine, forming what is known as a thymine dimer. This is like gluing two pages of a book together. You cannot properly read that information.
There is evidence that some proteins are sensitive to UV light, such as the opsin protein found in the eye of bees. The protein allows the bees to see UV light.
• As mentioned earlier, people with Porphyria are sensitive to light and when in the sun they can be in severe pain and develop blisters.
• Albinism is a genetic disorder in which there is partial or full absence of pigment in skin, hair and eyes. This will cause lighter than normal skin or hair, photophobia (avoidance of sunlight due to discomfort), and/or vision problems.
• Apoptosis is when a cell, for lack of a better phrase, commits suicide. Internal or external signals can be sent to a cell that will trigger preprogrammed cell death. Usually the DNA begins to fragment followed by the cell being engulfed by white blood cells.
• Necrosis occurs when cells become damaged which leads to swelling and bursting, releasing the intracellular components into the surrounding tissues.
Vampires and Light: Due to a lack of proper skin pigments, the vampire has UV sensitive proteins that are designed to protect the vulnerable DNA from the deadly light. When in the presence of UV light, these unique proteins become activated and trigger cellular apoptosis. Long term UV exposure causes rapid cellular necrosis as more and more cells receive the signal to commit suicide. This leads to a dark bluish-black appearance under the skin due to leakage of blood from vessels. Basically, it would look like a very deep bruise. As more cells die, this would cause overall organ failure.
The pure vampires have a genetic issue similar to Porphyria and albinism. This causes the extremely pale skin and blue eyes.
Science can prove nothing. Using experimentation, scientists can only provide evidence to disprove a topic. At this point, a unique combination of disorders and genes could create a creature that is similar to a vampire. Because science has yet to disprove the existence of the vampires, there is a chance that the fascinating creature could exist. What do you think?