Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Atherosclerosis in Mummies

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Atherosclerosis in Mummies

Article excerpt

Hardening of the arteries has been detected in Egyptian mummies as old as 3,500 years, suggesting that factors causing heart attacks and strokes are not solely byproducts of modern times.

"Atherosclerosis is widespread among modern-day humans and--despite differences in ancient and modern lifestyles--we found that it was rather common in ancient Egyptians of high socioeconomic status living more than three millennia ago," says Gregory Thomas, an associate clinical professor of cardiology at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine), who was part of an international team that conducted the study.

The nameplate of the Pharaoh Merenptah (who ruled 1213-1203 BC) at Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities says that when he died at about age 60, he had atherosclerosis, arthritis, and dental decay. Intrigued that atherosclerosis existed among ancient Egyptians, Thomas and U.S. and Egyptian cardiologists, joined by experts in Egyptology and preservation, selected 20 of the museum's mummies to study.

In February, the mummies underwent whole-body computed tomography (CT) scanning with special attention to the cardiovascular system. Researchers found that 9 of the 16 mummies with identifiable arteries or hearts had calcification. …

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