According to Prof. Mark Spigelman of the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is leading the Israeli team, the bones, which were all excavated by Dr. Kathleen Kenyon between fifty and seventy years ago, will be tested for tuberculosis, leprosy, leishmania and malaria. However, the primary focus will be tuberculosis.
Spigelman is known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases (palaeoepidemiology) found on mummified bodies and human remains from Hungary and Korea to Sudan, in his quest to provide answers to the development of diseases affecting us today, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and malaria.
'TB still the biggest killer'
Tuberculosis - or TB - is a deadly infectious bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs. Acknowledged as a disease of crowds, it is transmitted from human to human living in close contact.
Dating back thousands of years, tuberculosis was well known in antiquity. However, according to Spigelman, it is still the biggest killer even today. One-third of the world's current population has been infected by tuberculosis, resulting, in recent years, in approximately three million deaths per year.
While the origins of tuberculosis and its evolution remain unclear, it is thought it came from the first villages and small towns in the Fertile Crescent region about 9-10,000 years ago. Jericho is one of the earliest towns on earth, dating back to 9,000 B.C., and so a lot of communicable - or town - diseases would have had a good start in this community.
By examining human and animal bones from this site, the researchers will be able to see how the first people living in a crowded situation developed the diseases of crowds and how this affected the disease through changes in DNA – of both the microbes and the people.
The most significant results of this research will come from a comparison between those data for humans and corresponding animal remains which may allow the identification of animal-human vectors and their interaction.
How can this research help us today?
Preliminary work suggests that there is sufficient DNA in the bone samples to make a contribution to our understanding of the origin and development of microbial disease which could provide crucial information in the evolution of tuberculosis.
Spigelman believes that knowing how a disease developed 6,000 years ago helps us understand what it will do as it continues to evolve, and will ultimately alter the practice of public health officials in combating it.
Where were the bones until now?
Spigelman came across the long-forgotten bones while examining mummies at Sydney University's Nicholson Museum.
“They told me they had lots of boxes of bones and didn’t know what they were because they’d been deposited there fifty years earlier by an anthropologist who’d worked with Dr. Kathleen Kenyon who’d been excavating at Jericho. When I examined them, I recognized that these were the bones from Jericho, and I told them not throw them out!”
Some of the bones, which were then brought to Israel by Spigelman while on a Sir Zelman Cowan Fund fellowship, will be studied along with other bones from Jericho that have been contributed by the Duckworth Collection at Cambridge University who have agreed to participate in the project.
The research, which is being sponsored by a grant from the German Science Foundation, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), will be conducted by the Hebrew University, Al Quds University and the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. In Israel, Ph.D. and master’s students from both Al-Quds and the Hebrew Universities will devote their time exclusively to this project.
According to Spigelman, the project will also help the Palestinians develop the technology and set up their own ancient DNA lab at Al Quds University.
This is one of eleven trilateral research projects at the Hebrew University involving Palestinian, Israeli and German cooperation.
For further information, contact:
Rebecca Zeffert, Dept. of Media Relations, the Hebrew University, tel: 02-588-1641, cell: 054-882-0661
or Orit Sulitzeanu, Hebrew University spokesperson, tel: 02-5882910, cell: 054-882-0016.
Internet site: http://media.huji.ac.il
Rebecca Zeffert | Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution
09.12.2016 | Veterans Affairs Research Communications
Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine