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Health Check for Oetzi the Iceman

By Dave Armstrong - 29 Feb 2012 17:34:7 GMT
Health Check for Oetzi the Iceman

You can just make out his brown eyes in this artist's reproduction of Oetzi's facial features; Image Credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/EURAC/Marco Samadelli-Gregor Staschitz

When we wrote on Oetzi the archer who became "The Iceman," we must have missed the point. Now geneticists have jumped into the glacier with him and extracted his DNA for a whole-genome sequence. An innumerable number of genome experts have now learned all about him but his cotton socks. Professor Albert Zink, from the Eurac Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, is quoted as saying that the nuclear DNA study was a great leap forward in one of the most widely studied specimens in science.

To recap the fairy or g(e)nome story, 5,300 years ago, an Italian Alpine pass was the last resting place of a fine man whom the glacier disclosed to two hikers in 1991. The Mediterranean origins, running with Middle-Eastern ancestry, that have only been hinted at so far are confirmed by the most recent mitochondrial DNA sequencing techniques.

Saarland and Tuebingen University stalwarts, headed by Andreas Keller and Markus Ball joined many scientists in performing a huge update to an earlier genome analysis using ilium bone samples with a data verification on femoral DNA.) They have published the paper in Nature Communications.

The whole genome story is that:

Oetzi is the first known sufferer from Lyme disease, as he was also carrying the genome for the pathogenic bacterium concerned (Borrelia); He had brown eyes and hair, as confirmed by his southern extraction; The islanders on Corsica, Sardinia and other Tyrrhenian islands are his present closest descendants because others have been displaced by later migration; Blood group O is his blood group, in case he ever needs a transfusion; Lactose intolerance is a given anyway, as his herdsman and other fellow-men had only just started to build up lactose tolerance as they increasingly used cattle products; and he had an increased risk of a coronary, and this is confirmed with earlier evidence of his arteriosclerosis.

It is quite simply remarkable that we can now discover information that previous historians and scientists would have given their whole genome for!

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Topics: Evolution