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 The genes are not to blame
20.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Targeting headaches and tumors with nano-submarines
20.07.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>