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 New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

nachricht Pain: Perception and motor impulses arise in the brain independently of one another
12.12.2018 | 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: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magic number colloidal clusters

13.12.2018 | Life Sciences

UNLV study unlocks clues to how planets form

13.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Live from the ocean research vessel Atlantis

13.12.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>