Skin Protein Reveals Egyptian Mummies' Cause Of Death

Posted: Sep 26 2016, 2:56am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 26 2016, 3:03am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Skin Protein Reveals Egyptian Mummies's Cause of Death
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Researchers identified deadly, infectious diseases in the sampels taken from 42,000 years old Egyptian mummies

Egyptian mummies hold a great fascination for scientists. In 1920s, English Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered the mummy of King Tut in Egypt and ever since thousands of mummies have been uncovered. But scientists are still not sure what exactly killed those ancient Egyptians. 

To determine their actual cause of their death, a team of international researchers have recently examined the skin and muscle tissue samples of three 42,000-year-old ancient Egyptian mummies. By analyzing the protein in the skin, researchers have found that they were probably suffering from deadly cancer and other infectious diseases before their death.

Two of those mummies were retrieved from cemeteries at Assiut while one in Gebelein between 1911 and 1920 by Italian archeologists and remained stored in Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy.

“All these mummies are in poor condition, but that is what made them perfect for retrieving biopsies without causing further damage.” Jana Jones, from the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University said in a statement.

During the analysis, researchers indentified more than 230 proteins in five samples, providing the evidences for inflammation, severe infection and even cancer. Not only did samples revealed the presence of deadly infections and diseases but also confirmed that the collagens persisted for a long time. 

Analysis of skin tissue from the mummy known as Khepeshet indicated the prevalence of an infectious disease like Tuberculosis which primarily affects the lungs. Another mummy known as Idi was possibly suffering from a pancreatic or some other form of cancer. In Idi, researchers have found increased abundance of protein DMBT-1, which is generally associated with the progression of human cancers.

Third mummy which was buried in a coffin made out of a hollowed out tree trunk rather than a sealed coffin yielded very few proteins. The proteins of that mummy were decayed away due to the excessive exposure of elements over time. Therefore, researchers could not determine his cause of death. Overall, study was able to provide an historical context for medical conditions of a period which is known as Egypt’s first “Dark Age.”

“We identified numerous proteins that provide evidence of activation of the innate immunity system in two of the mummies, one of which also contained proteins indicating severe tissue inflammation, possibly indicative of an infection that we can speculate may have been related to the cause of death.” Study concludes

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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