For Halloween, Lab Land welcomes a guest post from Neuroscience graduate student Amielle Moreno, former editor of the Central Sulcus newsletter.
While recent studies have found evidence for the healing properties of blood from younger individuals, the fascination with “young blood” has been a part of the human condition for centuries.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates introduced the concept that our health and temperament was controlled by the four humors, proposing that blood was the one responsible for courage, playfulness as well as hope. From the 16th century story of Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed of Hungary, the idea of “blood baths” acquired decidedly more sinister connotations.
The “Blood Countess” holds the Guinness World Record as the most prolific female murderer. With 80 confirmed kills, Báthory might have lured up to 650 peasant girls to her castle with the promise of work as maidservants or courtly training. Instead of etiquette lessons, they were burned, beaten, frozen or starved for the Countess’ sadistic pleasure. Folk stories told how she would bathe in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth and beauty.
Portrait if Elizabeth Bathory, via Wikimedia
Humors remained a staple of traditional western medicine until the 1800s when medical research and our modern concept of medicine emerged. In this more enlightened age, people started sewing animals together to see what would happen.
In the mid-1800s, a French zoologist named Paul Bert first experimented with the creation of parabionts: the surgical joining of two animals, usually two rodents of the same species, in order to study the effect of one’s blood on the other. Read more