porphyria

gayle’s starting to get hooked on the twilight series and just last week (woke me up at dawn!) sent me an sms with a rather serious question:

Do you think vampires exist among us?

that woke me up contemplating at the thought of bloodsuckers roaming unnoticed in a sea of crowd. and i mean bloodsuckers in the literal sense, as i know there are thousands of blood-sucking parasites in the figurative sense walking around with smug looks on their ugly faces.

i don’t know. perhaps. but then i mentioned to her that there is indeed a disease with symptoms similar to those of vampires. i read about it in my anatomy book way back in college and somehow, such knowledge made me dismiss the reality of vampires.

the obnoxious geek in me who promised to give gayle information on the said disease flipped through my old anatomy & physiology book furiously looking for that certain left side of the page where i was so sure the article was located. and true enough, on page 106 of Elaine Marieb’s Sixth Edition Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, i found what i was looking for:

Porphyria is an inherited disease wherein people with this condition cannot make the iron-containing heme part of hemoglobin, the molecule of red blood cells that carries oxygen. it affects 1 of every 25,000 people. that said, allow me to copy the author’s words verbatimly:

sunlight creates all kinds of nasty damage in some porphyria victims (a reason, perhaps, why vampires were said to hide in dark basements and coffins during daylight hours). when exposed to sunlight, the skin becomes lesioned and scarred, and the fingers, toes, and nose are often mutilated. the teeth grow prominent as the gums degenerate (the basis of large vampire “fangs”?). rampant growth of hair causes the sufferer’s face to become wolflike and the hands to resemble paws. one treatment for porphyria is to inject heme molecules extracted from healthy red blood cells. heme injections were not available in the middle ages, so (perhaps) the next best thing would be to drink blood, as vampires were said to do. the claim that garlic keeps vampires away may stem from the fact that garlic severely aggravates porphyria symptoms.

it’s boring, i know. but once upon a time it caught my interest.

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