Egyptian mummies reveal their genetic secrets

Egyptian mummies reveal their genetic secrets

According to the results published in the Journal of Applied Genetics, the group of geneticists led by Carsten Push of the University of Tübingen (Germany), have detected signs of one of the origins of the mummies, in addition to its pathogens and a wide range of plant materials used in the embalming process.

The previous studies of the DNA of Egyptian mummies they used a technique called "Polymerase chain reaction”(PCR) to amplify specific segments of DNA. However, these types of studies have been controversial: PCR can fail with modern DNA, especially with the amplification of human genes or when bacteria are present in the environment.

DNA degrades relatively quickly in hot conditions, raising questions about whether it could survive for long in the Egyptian desert. However, previous studies by Pusch and his colleagues claim that the embalming process facilitated the preservation of DNA despite the high temperatures.

Now, Pusch and his colleagues have carried out the next generation of sequences in five mummified egyptian heads from between 806 BC. and 124 A.D. The data recovered so far is few, a small fraction of what would be required for a whole genome sequence. However they show that human DNA survives in mummies and that it is susceptible to sequencing.

The researchers determined that one of the mummified individuals belonged to an ancestral group (or haplogroup) called I2, which is believed to have originated in western Asia. They also recovered genetic material from pathogens causing malaria and toxoplasmosis, and from a number of plants such as fir and pine, as well as flax seeds, olive oil, almonds and lotus.

According to Pusch, the proportion of human DNA in the identified sequences it is comparable to that of frozen samples, such as that of the Saqqaq man. In the mummies, "DNA preservation appears to be independent of temperature”, He explained.

However, Tom Gilbert, head of two research groups at the Copenhagen GeoGenetics Center and part of the team that sequenced the Saqqaq genome, cautioned against making such a comparison since many of the sequences obtained in the last study were identifiable.

Almost graduated in Advertising and Public Relations. I started to like history in 2nd year of high school thanks to a very good teacher who made us see that we have to know our past to know where the future takes us. Since then I have not had the opportunity to investigate more in all that our history offers us, but now I can take up that concern and share it with you.

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