Will the mythical character of Dracula soon reveal his secrets? Gleb and Svetlana Zilberstein, a couple of scientists ,hope the genetic material left on the letters – such as his sweat, fingerprints and saliva – will given new insight into Dracula’s life.

Dated August 4, 1475, the letter was written to the burghers of Sibiu by a man describing himself as “prince of the Transalpine regions.” He informed the townspeople that he would soon be taking up residence among them. He signed with a name sure to strike fear into their hearts: Vlad Dracula.

Vlad, also known as Vlad Dracula, was the three-time ruler of Wallachian (between 1448 and his death around 1477 ) and was later the inspiration for Irish author Bram Stoker’s famous vampire count in his 1897 novel Dracula..

The couple’s work harnesses breathtaking advances in a field known as proteomics, which seeks to understand the interaction of proteins within living cells and organisms. Proteins have long been studied in the context of biology and medicine, but spectacularly sensitive analytical techniques now allow researchers to use protein traces to gather intimate information from materials that were once primarily the domain of historians and archaeologists, opening a new window onto the past. The project is part of a scientific revolution that is profoundly expanding the type of information that can be gleaned from historical texts and artifacts, from X-ray and CT scanning to carbon dating and genetic sequencing. Gleb Zilberstein has designed a material that can coax protein molecules from the surface of paper, parchment and paintings—even mummies and woolly mammoths—without damaging the objects themselves.

For their first experiment, Zilberstein traveled to a government archive in Moscow to study the original manuscript of The Master and Margarita, by the Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, who died from kidney disease at age 48 in 1940. In the library, he covered the manuscript pages with ground-up polymer beads, then Righetti used mass spectrometry to analyze the molecules Zilberstein had captured and found liberal traces of morphine. In a subsequent paper, published in the Journal of Proteomics, they concluded that Bulgakov was self-medicating with the drug while he wrote.

Source: Smithsonian Magazin