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Mummies Reveal that Our Ancestors were not Immune to Atherosclerosis

Submitted by on March 18, 2013 – 9:47 PM
king-tutankhamenThe first thing that comes in our mind after hearing the term “atherosclerosis” is lipid deposition in arteries as a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle. For instance consider smoking, junk food rich in low density lipoproteins, “bad cholesterol” and sedentary life style. But a new study published in The Lancet has shown that the disease was present in our ancestors 4000 years ago. These findings were obtained by conducting CT scans of mummies from four different geographical locations and with a prevalence of 25-51% among various locations, it is unlikely that the results were merely by chance.


These findings also negate the possibility from earlier samples that the atherosclerotic plaques might simply represent the disease in highly privileged individuals who were intentionally mummified. The new findings are from people more representative of general population and mummified as a natural process, for instance through low temperatures.


While it is possible that the pathogenesis of the disease might be related to some independent risk factors such as an increased predisposition due to chronic renal disease, the study has questioned the popular belief of atherosclerosis being a “modern” disease and has suggested that it was indeed prevalent in the premodern era.


Thus, it is extremely difficult to halt the process, though efforts aimed at slowing its progression need to be intensified. Also, basic pathophysiological mechanisms that culminate in its devastation need further elucidation.



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