Nautilus

Out for Young Blood

The vampire live on, and cannot die by mere passing of the time,” Dracula’s Abraham Van Helsing tells his colleagues. “He can flourish when that he can fatten on the blood of the living. Even more, we have seen amongst us that he can even grow younger ...”

The great gothic novel didn’t invent the idea of rejuvenation through blood. It drew on a belief that persisted from the myths of ancient Greece through the early days of Christianity—and, remarkably, to the present day. As Van Helsing lays out his methods to capture and kill Dracula, he tells his companions they have a special power on their side, “a power denied to the vampire kind”—the power of science. In a remarkable irony, certain scientists in the past decade have taken the side of the vampires, offering evidence that blood from the young, when transfused into the old, may strengthen “vital faculties” and ward off elements of aging.

Bram Stoker wrote at a time when science was countering widely held superstitious and religious beliefs. Is the modern-day resurgence of interest into the rejuvenating powers of blood good science working well, or a step backward into a familiar superstition?

A FOOL THERE WAS: The myth that new blood fed eternal life infused early vampire tales, a moral brew of sex and consequences. Rudyard Kipling, inspired by the painting above, begins his 1897 poem, “The Vampire”: “A fool there was and he made his prayer.”The Vampire, 1897, by Philip Burne-Jones

ach of our bodies course with a little more than a gallon of blood, from our blushing cheeks to the teal veins that branch across our arms. The earliest humans to see this vital liquid as a life-giving source were the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates, the Greek physician from 400 B.C. and the father of modern medicine, believed our bodies were controlled by four fluids called “humors”—blood, phlegm, and black and yellow bile. The humors

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