Blood and cure?

From Gothic to Photonic – Can the study of vampires lead to a cancer cure?

Date: 20 February 2014

The link between spookiness and science was explored last week at a special talk organised by the Society of Life Sciences at London Metropolitan University.  The busy event took a closer look at how the ancient beasts of the night have inspired scientists today – although this was not a place for Twilight fans.

Dr Lionel Milgrom, a chemist, took the audience back to the history of vampires and how much of the myth can be traced back to a family of metabolic blood disorders knows as Porphyrias. This condition can create symptoms that are closely linked to vampire folklore, such as photosensitivity in the form of a negative skin reaction to daylight. The talk then moved on to the chemistry of porphyrins, and how this led to ways of destroying tumours.

It seems that after all, "vampires" were just people who had porphyria, but just didn't know it back then.

After the event members had a chance to have lunch and chat with Dr Milgrom, co-founder and first CEO of a university ‘spin-out’ company from Imperial College London which pioneers a novel form of targeted cancer therapy that uses light and dyes to eradicate tumours.  

“I was very happy when we confirmed Dr Milgrom as a speaker because porphyrias are the sort of topic that students don’t get to explore in this much detail during their lectures,” said Gabriele Butkute, the founder of the Society of Life Sciences.

“The aim of the Society of Life Sciences is to show students that they should be curious about science and try broadening their minds beyond the curriculum. There is so much science out there, we only need to be enthusiastic and open minded,” she said.

Butkute was pleased with the number of students that came to the event and received very positive comments from her fellow students. The Society has organised several events on various topics, often given by external speakers. Currently it is the only student society at London Met that focuses on the wide field of Life Sciences, and has over 60 registered members.

Read the full report of the event in the Faculty's Student Newsletter.

To learn more on how to join to the Society of Life Science, go to the Students Union Website.

Find out more about the Faculty of Life Sciences and Computing at London Met