Thursday, August 28, 2008

TruBlood and the All-American Vampire

Imagine that you are a vampire, dependent on human blood for nourishment. What would happen if an artificial replacement were available? That's the premise of HBO's new series True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire mysteries:
Thanks to a Japanese scientist's invention of synthetic blood, vampires have progressed from legendary monsters to fellow citizens overnight. And while humans have been safely removed from the menu, many remain apprehensive about these creatures "coming out of the coffin." Religious leaders and government officials around the world have chosen their sides, but in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the jury is still out.
You can find out more about TruBlood, the "synthetic blood nourishment beverage" at, including which type is right for you. Apparently my beverage of choice would be Type A, a light and delicate brew "painstakingly imagined inducing an overall calmness." Yum!

Unfortunately the site doesn't reveal any secrets about TruBlood, other than that it contains "varied cellular content than actual blood", which isn't even grammatical. Fortunately, investigative site BloodCopy had a scientific analysis performed to determine its composition. It turns out to be a complex mixture of components that is consistent with actual blood.
True to the advertising, varied cell types were detectable once I had completed my staining protocol. All of the normally occurring formed elements were present excluding platelets. In addition, there were a few white blood cells that I couldn't easily identify leading me to think that these cells may be the product of incomplete blood formation from a lab grown tissue culture process. In experiments performed with laboratory tissue cultures, directed blood cell formation is frequently unable to produce the large cells called Megakaryocytes that break apart to form platelets. It may be that vampire healing mechanisms are so different from ours that clotting agents aren't required, allowing some easier to produce cell type that would fulfill the same nutritional niche to be substituted in place of the platelets.
The report concludes that "none of the contents of these samples comes directly from human or animal subjects", and suggests that the components are actually cultured cells and hormones and other substances secreted from genetically modified bacteria. Basically, it's blood that's been reconstituted from its component parts, rather than drained from an animal. I wonder if it will turn out to be real human blood, harvested from imprisoned blood donors (TruBlood is people!), or maybe I've just watched too much sci-fi horror.

Anyway, it's the added hormones that differentiate between the different flavors of TruBlood. The Type A formula that was recommended for me has high levels of melatonin and arginine, making me sleep better and improving my circulation, I suppose. Download the analysis (pdf)*

The in-depth report "Vampires in America" (below) has more. Watch it to learn more about TruBlood, vampire biology, sex, and organized anti-vampire organizations.

There is also a TrueBlood comic that gives the background for the series.
TrueBlood premieres on HBO on September 7.

* If you actually look at the report there is an odd figure that looks like a 3D representation of hemoglobin, with the protein subunits labeled "bacteria", "cow blood", "female vascular organ", and "HBOC" (hemoglobin based oxygen carrier). It doesn't make any sense at all. I suppose the artist saw those words in the report and thought "Ooh, sciency!"

(video via io9)
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  1. Anonymous7:57 AM

    I don't have high hopes for the show. I read the second book in the series a while back, and it was really awful. The worst aspects of a romance novel mixed with a boring supernatural plot, and bad writing hanging out all over the place.

  2. What's hard to tell from the promos is how closely the series will be following the plot. It's possible that they will make significant changes (as they did with the Dexter novels, for example), for better or for worse.


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