Thursday, April 12, 2012

On vampires and blood

Hematology is one of the subjects on the lab tech course that I am doing, and I just love it.  Not only because it is fascinating, but also because I am a vampire lover, and when I realized I was going to have 15 hours a week of talks on blood I thought life could not get better (I’m kidding!).  I secretly hoped I could discover what exactly nourishes the vampire, and if it could be explained by science. 

So if you want to take the journey with me…

CRASH COURSE ON HUMAN BLOOD – for vampire lovers and the scientifically inclined (or both at the same time) – PART ONE.

Blood is a very simple substance, and at the same time, terribly complex.  It cannot be created (sorry, Ms Harris, True Blood will never exist, and the Japanese will not be able to invent it), and if someone needs it, it has to be donated.  An adult person has about 68-77 ml of blood per kilogram of weight.  Do the math and see how much blood you have.

Blood is a tissue made of living cells (erythrocytes, leukocytes and platelets), and plasma.

Erythrocytes are the commonly called red blood cells.  They are red because of the hemoglobin, which is a protein they carry inside that contains iron and that transports oxygen.  Red blood cells live up to 120 days, and we have around 4,500,000 erythrocytes per ml of blood. 
These are my favorites.

Leukocytes are the white blood cells (you may know them as they are part of our immune system).  They are the only blood cells that have nucleus.  We have 5,000-11,000 leukocytes per ml of blood.  There are 5 types of leukocytes: 
It would be long to describe them all, so let’s say that most of them have a life of hours or days, except the limphocytes, that can last for years – these are the ones that keeps us free of diseases because they keep a memory of the agents that enter our body and how they got rid of them.  That’s why they last for so long.

Platelets have a life of 10 days.  They are the agents that close up wounds when we get hurt (they stop the hemorrhage) , and we have 140,000-400,000 platelets per ml.

Plasma is the liquid fraction of the blood.  Of the total amount of blood, 50-55% is plasma, and the rest are the blood cells.  Plasma is composed of:
- 91.5% of water
- 7% of proteins (55% albumin, 38% globulins, 7% fibrinogen)
- 1.5% of other substances such as glucids, lipids, electrolytes and waste products

The fibrinogen is a protein that helps the blood get clotted.  A blood extracted can get clotted as fast as 3-7 minutes.  That’s why labs use anticoagulants when they extract blood that has to be preserved, be it for lab work or a blood bank.

So, after all this info, what’s your take?  Why vampires like blood so much and what is exactly the component that nourishes them?
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
It cannot be the plasma – it is mostly water, after all!  Maybe the proteins on it? Albumin… You can get that of eating eggs.  Not the fibrinogen.  After all, vampires do not lick blood that has been spilled and it’s clotted.  Well, some do.  Eli from “Let the right one in”.  But they usually don’t. 
The globulins then?  They are proteins with medium molecular weight…

What about the cells?  Oh, how they love the red color… Maybe it’s the erythrocytes.  The thing the erythrocytes have the most is the hemoglobin, which is mainly iron and oxygen.  They do not need the oxygen, as most folklores insist they are dead. 
Leukocytes are not needed either.  As dead people, they do not have diseases or infections.
Platelets are very, very small.  If they needed them, probably a whole person would not be sufficient per night.

Hold the thoughts while I am being taught in a few days about blood banks, and we’ll talk about the honorable vampires that want to live off them…
In the meantime, here are some pictures of slides of dyed blood I made.  I took them with my camera through the lens of the microscope.

The orange dots are erythrocytes.  The two purple dots are two basophils.
More erythrocytes.  To the top right, a neutrophil.  To the left, a monocyte.  The one that is further down is a lymphocyte.
Erythrocytes and an eosinophil.

A monocyte.  The tiny purple dots at the bottom are platelets.
And if you have read up until now, go and reward yourself with an erythrocyte, a leukocyte or a platelet.


Rachel said...

This was a great post, I found it really interesting. Looking forward to the next part on blood banks.

Kaleidoskopic Romance said...

Hi Rachel, thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it :)

linnea-maria said...

Interesting post! Actually I have had the same thought on what the Vampires exactly need in the blood.