To date, it’s thought that there are 61 separate genes in the human chromosome that change during the aging process. These changes contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, and other generative conditions.
One theory states that free radicals that are floating in the body converting food to energy damage certain genes and mutate them into diseased states. The more you eat, the more free radicals that are floating around in the body, damaging the cells. Studies on mice show that when the mice consumed 30% less than their normal diet, their lifespan increased from the average 39 months to 56 months.
For vampires, they don’t consume a lot of food, but maintain a simple and restricted diet. This means that vampires have fewer free radicals floating in their bodies to damage and age their cells. Even still, vampires would still age, but there are many stories where some vampires become younger, such as “Dracula.”
Since fewer free radicals wouldn’t stop the aging, only slow it, there has to be something else, something related to chromosomes and telomere, which are sequences of DNA that can be seen as little caps on the ends of the chromosomes. They protect and stabilize the ends, as well as function as molecular memory.
Each time the cell divides, the telomere shortens until it reaches a preset length, meaning that each cell can only divide a predetermined number of times. When the cell stops dividing, it goes into a state of aging and eventually dies.
Not only that, but the genes that control the aging process are located near the telomeres, and as the telomeres shorten, the aging gene is activated. And, now that the telomeres have shortened, they can’t protect the chromosomal ends, which can cause loss of energy and functional breakdown, which can make the body more vulnerable to disease.
But, vampires still don’t show signs of aging… Scientists have studied Werner syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that involves premature aging. These cells generally have a short life span because they age so fast, but when the scientists treated these cells with telomerase, the enzyme-treated cells lasted indefinitely.
A second test involved treating blood vessel cells in human skin with telomerase. The cells formed new capillaries without damaging alterations associated with cellular mutations. When transplanted into mice underneath the skin, the cells fused with the cells already present, even carrying blood. This shows that telomerase has the capacity to induce the growth of functional cells.
When telomerase conveys an unlimited capacity to the human cell to replicate, it retains its youth, but it also increased the risk for cancer.
Vampires must have some telomerase in their cells, enough so to prevent aging. But, at the molecular level, the vampire body must either 1) have the ability to make the cells divide indefinitely but remain immune to disease or 2) to stop them from dividing altogether without death setting in.
So, what don’t vampires age? No one really knows. What do you think?