DNA of mummies first analyzed

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It was an international team of scientists who were able to read the mitochondrial genome of 90 mummies and partially analyze the nuclear DNA of three of them, Nature Communications announced this week. It is the first-time scientists have been able to study the genetic information stored in the nucleus of the mummy cells, because DNA has deteriorated over time.

All of this data was collected after the team studied 151 mummies from the Abusir-El Meleq necropolis, between Cairo and Luxor. All the corpses belonged to middle-class men who were between 20 and 30 years old and who lived between the times of the New Kingdom (time of the history of Ancient Egypt between 1550 BC and 1070 BC) and the times when Egypt was in the hands Of the Roman Empire. This period covers 1300 years of World History, two of the mummies “had fair skin, dark eyes and lactose intolerant” but, as for the third mummy, scientists could not ascertain what their physical characteristics were, and apparently these Mummies are genetically more similar to the people of the Near East (Iraq, part of Iran, part of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel) than with the present Egyptians, who are more like the “sub-Saharan Africans of more recent times” because , Probably crossed with slaves from that region.

All of these conclusions were possible since the scientists used a technique that reads DNA “letter by letter”, that is, gene a gene. So, comparing the genes of these mummies to the genes of older ones, such as Pharaoh Tutankhamen, it is possible to obtain similarities and differences between different genomes and to see how they evolved over time. And this is not a simple task: first, because it depends on government authorization for the extraction of cell samples from the older mummies; And second, because such samples are usually contaminated by the products used for the embalming or may deteriorate with temperature or humidity.

The results of this study, however, were not yet analyzed by the scientific community, but the techniques used were different. In this case, more genes were studied than in all the older studies. DNA samples are from the skin or muscle – most other scientists choose these organs because they are the ones that look most preserved in mummies. The team took samples of the bones and teeth and ensured “best results”.

Scientists have been trying to obtain viable DNA samples from mummies for about 30 years, the first extraction of a sample of the cells from a mummy was done by Svante Paabo, a mummy specialist, in 1985. The most recent extraction took place in 2010 But the scientific results were not accepted by the scientific community, because the techniques used to get the DNA samples would be “poorly suited,” the scientists said. According to Wolfgang Haak, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human History, this is “the largest genetic study of Egyptian mummies” ever made.

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