Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Iceman mummy: 5,000-year-old red blood cells discovered -- oldest blood known to modern science

Date:
May 2, 2012
Source:
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
Summary:
His DNA has been decoded; samples from his stomach and intestines have allowed us to reconstruct his very last meal. The circumstances of his violent death appear to have been explained. However, what had, at least thus far, eluded the scientists, was identifying any traces of blood in Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old glacier mummy. Examination of his aorta had yielded no results. Yet recently, a team of scientists from Italy and Germany, using nanotechnology, succeeded in locating red blood cells in Ötzi's wounds, thereby discovering the oldest traces of blood to have been found anywhere in the world.

Using nanotechnology, researchers from Italy and Germany have succeeded in locating red blood cells in the wounds of Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old glacier mummy.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano

His DNA has been decoded; samples from his stomach and intestines have allowed us to reconstruct his very last meal. The circumstances of his violent death appear to have been explained. However, what had, at least thus far, eluded the scientists, was identifying any traces of blood in Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old glacier mummy. Examination of his aorta had yielded no results. Yet recently, a team of scientists from Italy and Germany, using nanotechnology, succeeded in locating red blood cells in Ötzi's wounds, thereby discovering the oldest traces of blood to have been found anywhere in the world.

"Up to now there had been uncertainty about how long blood could survive -- let alone what human blood cells from the Chalcolithic period, the Copper Stone Age, might look like." This is how Albert Zink, Head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy, Bozen-Bolzano (EURAC) explains the starting point for the investigations which he undertook with Marek Janko and Robert Stark, materials scientists at the Center of Smart Interfaces at Darmstadt Technical University. Even in modern forensic medicine it has so far been almost impossible to determine how long a trace of blood had been present at a crime scene. Scientists Zink, Janko and Stark are convinced that the nanotechnological methods which they tested out on Ötzi's blood to analyse the microstructure of blood cells and minute blood clots might possibly lead to a break-through in this area.

The team of scientists used an atomic force microscope to investigate thin tissue sections from the wound where the arrow entered Ötzi's back and from the laceration on his right hand. This nanotechnology instrument scans the surface of the tissue sections using a very fine probe. As the probe moves over the surface, sensors measure every tiny deflection of the probe, line by line and point by point, building up a three-dimensional image of the surface. What emerged was an image of red blood cells with the classic "doughnut shape," exactly as we find them in healthy people today.

"To be absolutely sure that we were not dealing with pollen, bacteria or even a negative imprint of a blood cell, but indeed with actual blood cells, we used a second analytical method, the so-called Raman spectroscopy method," report Marek Janko and Robert Stark, who, with Albert Zink, are also members of the Center for NanoSciences in Munich. In Raman spectroscopy the tissue sample is illuminated by a laser beam and analysis of the spectrum of the scattered light allows one to identify various molecules. According to the scientists, the images derived from this process corresponded to present-day samples of human blood.

Whilst examining the wound at the point where the arrow entered the body, the team of scientists also identified fibrin, a protein involved in the clotting of blood. "Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that Ötzi died some days after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been mooted, can no longer be upheld," explains Albert Zink.

The team has just published the results of this research in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marek Janko, Robert W. Stark, Albert Zink. Preservation of 5300 year old red blood cells in the Iceman. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Published online before print May 2, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0174

Cite This Page:

European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. "Iceman mummy: 5,000-year-old red blood cells discovered -- oldest blood known to modern science." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502141132.htm>.
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. (2012, May 2). Iceman mummy: 5,000-year-old red blood cells discovered -- oldest blood known to modern science. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502141132.htm
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. "Iceman mummy: 5,000-year-old red blood cells discovered -- oldest blood known to modern science." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120502141132.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) — New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) — Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

AFP (July 18, 2014) — Contaminated water in South Africa's northwestern town of Bloemhof kills three babies and hospitalises over 500 people. The incident highlights growing fears over water safety in South Africa. Duration: 02:22 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins