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How a 3,000-year-old skeleton is helping the fight against heart disease

Durham University of Durham University PhD student Michaela Binder, who has discovered evidence of artherosclerosis, or furred arteries, in people living 3,000 years ago, demonstrating the condition, a common cause of cardiovascular disease, has affected humans for thousands of years.

Durham University of Durham University PhD student Michaela Binder, who has discovered evidence of artherosclerosis, or furred arteries, in people living 3,000 years ago, demonstrating the condition, a common cause of cardiovascular disease, has affected humans for thousands of years.

HEART disease may be called a modern-day killer, but experts have now found evidence it existed at least 3,000 years ago.

Furring of the arteries has been found in ancient African skeletons by a researcher at Durham University.

The condition atherosclerosis, a thickening of the artery wall due to fatty build-up and a factor in cadiovascular disease, was found in the remains of farming communities.

Last month, Michaela Binder, a PhD bioarchaeologist at Durham, revealed evidence of cancer in a skeleton dating back to 1200 BC.

Now as part of research linked with the British Museum, she has found signs of furred arteries in skeletons of three men and two women buried in the same group at Amara West, by the Nile in the Sudan.

She said: “Very little is known about atherosclerosis in past human populations because it is very difficult to find evidence in skeletal human remains.

“Insights gained from archaeological remains like these can really help us to understand the evolution and history of modern diseases.” The skeletons are believed to belong to people who died between 1300 and 800BC, when the settlement was abandoned.

It is impossible to say whether atherosclerosis played a part in their deaths, but smoke from fires may have been a factor. Poor dental health may also be linked to the condition, just as gum disease may be an indicator of cardiovascular conditions in modern times.

 

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