Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

500 year old Korean mummies may provide clues to combat hepatitis B

23.07.2007
Mummies that have recently been unearthed in South Korea may provide clues on how to combat hepatitis B, according to Prof. Mark Spigelman of the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This is the first time that samples of hepatitis B have ever been found on a mummified body. When the virus was discovered in the liver of a 500 year old child, researchers at Dankook University and Seoul National University invited Hebrew University Prof Spigelman to South Korea to verify the findings.

Spigelman and the Liver Unit at Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem in Jerusalem are now part of an international team to conduct research on the mummies, bringing together experts from Dankook University, Seoul National University and University College London.

Spigelman known for his pioneering studies of ancient diseases (palaeoepidemiology) found on mummified bodies from Hungary to Sudan, in his quest to provide answers to the development of diseases affecting us today, such as tuberculosis, leishmania and influenza. The South Korean mummies are particularly well preserved, and could provide crucial information in the evolution of the hepatitis B virus.

An international killer

Hepatitis B causes liver problems and can lead to liver cancer or liver failure, killing approximately one million people each year.

In South Korea, the need to manage the virus is particularly significant, as twelve percent of the population are hepatitis carriers (compared with a world average of five percent). In China, the virus is one of the leading causes of cancer.

Korean mummies?

Until recently, no one even knew that mummies existed in Korea. Korea's ancient tradition of ancestor worship and the belief that at death, the soul rises up and the body has to go back to its natural components, without interference by external elements, meant that mummification was in fact anathema in Korean culture. However, with the take-over of the neo-Confucianist Joseon Dynasty in 1392, changes were made to the former Buddhist burial practices.

The burial process involved laying the body on ice for three to thirty days during mourning, placing the body inside an inner and an outer pine coffin, surrounded by the deceased's clothes, and the covering he coffin in a lime soil mixture. "In some cases, this inadvertently resulted in extremely good natural mummification," says Spigelman.

The building boom in South Korea has meant that many cemeteries have had to be relocated. It is this process which led to the discovery of the mummified bodies.

Know your enemy

The researchers intend to study the genome of the 500 year old virus to see if there have been any significant changes over this time. Spigelman asks: "Five hundred years ago, was it hepatitis B? Could it be that later on, it split from 'X' and became A and B? Was it already evolved? That's what we don't know."

"This is a 'know your enemy' expedition to see if we can get information that can help today's - and tomorrow’s - sufferers," says Spigelman. He believes that knowing what a virus did 500 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.

For further information or for a full copy of the report, contact:

Rebecca Zeffert, Dept. of Media Relations, the Hebrew University, tel: 02-588-1641, cell: 052-551 6692

or Orit Sulitzeanu, Hebrew University spokesperson, tel: 02-5882910, cell: 052-260 8016.

Rebecca Zeffert | Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Further information:
http://media.huji.ac.il

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>