Diagnosis of ancient tumors and infectious diseases depends on the specific detection of cancer cells and pathogens in buried individuals; these fields of research are known as paleoncology and paleomicrobiology, two emerging disciplines which have benefited from technological advances. Over the last years, aDNA limitations due to potential contamination by modern DNA and altered aDNA, together with the high costs, have led to the development of alternative methods for the detection and characterization of non nucleotidic biomolecules, including proteins. We review some past studies with a major impact in soft tissue paleopathology in Italy and discuss the relevance of these materials to study ancient diseases. We mention among others: in 1986, smallpox virus in a 16th century Italian mummy; in 1989, syphilitic treponemes in an Italian mummy of the same age; in 1992, Trypanosoma cruzi in a pre-Columbian mummy with megavisceral syndrome; in 1996, K-ras mutation in the adenocarcinoma of Ferrante I of Aragon, King of Naples in the 15th century; in 2003, a sequence of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in a Renaissance Italian mummy; in 2004, digitalis poisoning in the natural mummy of Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona (1291-1329); in 2010, Plasmodium falciparum in the bone tissue of the Medici in Florence. In conclusion, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy, two morphological disciplines which, compared to ancient DNA studies, have been rather neglected in the past years, can still be useful and have to be revaluated in Paleopathology. The future potential of these researches should be considered in managing the preservation of bioarchaeological specimens stored in laboratories and museums.

Ancient Remnants: Biomolecules in Paleopathology

FORNACIARI, GINO
2013

Abstract

Diagnosis of ancient tumors and infectious diseases depends on the specific detection of cancer cells and pathogens in buried individuals; these fields of research are known as paleoncology and paleomicrobiology, two emerging disciplines which have benefited from technological advances. Over the last years, aDNA limitations due to potential contamination by modern DNA and altered aDNA, together with the high costs, have led to the development of alternative methods for the detection and characterization of non nucleotidic biomolecules, including proteins. We review some past studies with a major impact in soft tissue paleopathology in Italy and discuss the relevance of these materials to study ancient diseases. We mention among others: in 1986, smallpox virus in a 16th century Italian mummy; in 1989, syphilitic treponemes in an Italian mummy of the same age; in 1992, Trypanosoma cruzi in a pre-Columbian mummy with megavisceral syndrome; in 1996, K-ras mutation in the adenocarcinoma of Ferrante I of Aragon, King of Naples in the 15th century; in 2003, a sequence of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in a Renaissance Italian mummy; in 2004, digitalis poisoning in the natural mummy of Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona (1291-1329); in 2010, Plasmodium falciparum in the bone tissue of the Medici in Florence. In conclusion, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy, two morphological disciplines which, compared to ancient DNA studies, have been rather neglected in the past years, can still be useful and have to be revaluated in Paleopathology. The future potential of these researches should be considered in managing the preservation of bioarchaeological specimens stored in laboratories and museums.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/272936
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