According to a recent study published in the prestigious journal PNAS, “Vampires” may have been real people with a rare blood disorder.
The folklore of vampires inspired horror stories for centuries around the globe, resulting in Hollywood being flooded with Vampire stories that produced some of the most watched movies of the 21st century.
Now, according to new research, these creatures may have been real, and the reason for their existence could be the result of a rare disease.
Scientists have concluded that Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) could be the reason behind the ancient vampire legends, according to a study that a multidisciplinary team has published in the journal PNAS.
As it turns out, people suffering from EPP, a type of protoporphyrin called protoporphin IX accumulates in the red blood cells, plasma and sometimes the liver, makes them go ‘Vampirish’ in a way.
Experts note that when protoporphin IX is exposed to light, it produces chemicals that damage surrounding cells.
Those suffering from this disease have a remarkable photosensitivity to ultraviolet radiation that causes inflammation, burning, and redness in the skin. Experts indicate how prolonged exposure to the sunshine can cause painful, disfiguring blister—even trace amounts of sunlight that pass through window glass can cause damage.
“People with EPP are chronically anemic, which makes them feel very tired and look very pale with increased photosensitivity because they can’t come out in the daylight,” says Barry Paw MD, Ph.D., of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.
“Even on a cloudy day, there’s enough ultraviolet light to cause blistering and disfigurement of the exposed body parts, ears, and nose.”
According to scientists, if people suffering from this disease remain inside during the day and receive blood transfusions, it would alleviate some of their symptoms.
In ancient times, however, drinking animal blood and going out at night may have had a similar effect and, by the way, have spawned the myth of vampires.
Paw asserts that “vampires are not real”, but believes there is a real need to develop innovative therapies to improve the lives of those with erythropoietic protoporphyria.
Experts performed deep gene sequencing on a family from northern France with EPP of a previously unknown genetic signature. Paw and his colleagues discovered a novel mutation of the gene CLPX, which plays a role in mitochondrial protein folding.
“This newly-discovered mutation really highlights the complex genetic network that underpins heme metabolism,” says Paw, who was a co-senior author on the study. “Loss-of-function mutations in any number of genes that are part of this network can result in devastating, disfiguring disorders.”
This research was published in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences