Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Medieval DNA, Modern Medicine (Lessons From The Black Death)
Archaeology Magazine ^ | 11/12-2007 | Heather Pringle

Posted on 10/16/2007 12:58:12 PM PDT by blam

Medieval DNA, Modern Medicine

Volume 60 Number 6, November/December 2007
by Heather Pringle

Will a cemetery excavation establish a link between the Black Death and resistance to AIDS?

Beneath Eindhoven's modern skin of brick and asphalt lie the bones of its medieval townspeople. Studying their DNA may reveal the origin of the genetic resistance to AIDS. (Courtesy Laurens Mulkens)

From the start, Nico Arts sensed that the frail remains of a child buried in front of a medieval church altar had an important story to tell. Arts is the municipal archaeologist in Eindhoven, a prosperous industrial city in the southern Netherlands whose medieval streets vanished long ago beneath a modern warren of concrete and steel. In the late winter of 2002, Arts and his team were conducting a test excavation near St. Catherine's Church in the city center, in advance of the development of a new public square. Arts believed he had found someone very important, such as the son or daughter of a former lord of Eindhoven. He persuaded forensic scientists at the University of Louvain in Belgium to test for ancient DNA. The chances of finding it seemed slim because water dissolves DNA, and the repeated pumping of groundwater from underground parking lots over the past decade could have periodically soaked the child's bones. But in 2004, Arts received some unexpected news: one of the child's milk teeth yielded DNA. It was the first time usable amounts of this molecule had been recovered from an ancient body in the Netherlands, and it showed the child was a boy.

This chance discovery of ancient DNA has led to one of the most ambitious archaeological projects ever to come out of the Netherlands--a massive excavation in the St. Catherine's Church cemetery and the establishment of a major ancient human DNA databank. With $3.4 million in funding, Arts and a team of archaeologists and physical anthropologists have now unearthed the skeletons of more than 750 Eindhoven citizens. And over the next two years, University of Leiden geneticist Peter de Knijff will attempt to recover DNA from these remains. "We expect that at least 75 percent of all individuals will have ancient DNA and proteins," says Arts.

Eveline Altena prepares to take a DNA sample from a recently excavated molar. The tooth's pulp cavity seals off DNA from contaminants, making it the best place to look for intact genetic samples. (Courtesy Laurens Mulkens)

For researchers, the Eindhoven DNA bank could prove a major windfall, paving the way for a host of new studies. To unravel the mysteries of human disease, researchers are increasingly studying genetic variations in human populations that increase the risk of illnesses, such as diabetes, or boost resistance to infections such as malaria. By studying the variants over time, researchers hope to advance knowledge of these diseases and gather clues to produce vaccines or new drug treatments. And such medical research is where the Eindhoven DNA bank, which spans 600 years of history, could really shine.

The Dutch team hopes, for example, that their project will reveal the origin and prevalence of a genetic variant that increases resistance to one of the world's most lethal viruses--HIV. Today, nearly 10 percent of people of northern European descent possess this variant, known as the CCR5D32 allele, and the discovery is sparking the development of a new class of AIDS-fighting drugs. Evidence suggests that this mutation first arose 3,100 to 7,800 years ago, but how did it become so prevalent across Europe in an age before the AIDS epidemic? Could this mutation also have boosted resistance to an earlier epidemic, such as smallpox or the Black Death? In search of new data, Knijff and his team will search for this variant in the DNA of Eindhoven's citizens. "There is no doubt that these studies are valuable," says Susan Scott, a University of Liverpool historian who has written extensively on the Black Death and its possible connection to the HIV-resistance variant. "Whilst I don't think [ancient DNA] studies will yield a vaccine for AIDS, they may assist molecular geneticists to develop some gene therapy."

For Arts and many of his colleagues, the bold project has ushered in a new era in archaeological research. "It makes archaeology much more relevant than it ever has been before," says Eveline Altena, a University of Leiden doctoral student in charge of recovering ancient DNA from the Eindhoven burials. "If we can use archaeological samples to answer medical questions, how cool is that?"

Heather Pringle is a freelance science journalist and author of Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aids; blackdeath; dna; godsgravesglyphs; medieval

1 posted on 10/16/2007 12:58:15 PM PDT by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
GGG Ping.
2 posted on 10/16/2007 12:59:17 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam
There are several "plagues" that seem to share in an inability to penetrate this particular genetic resistance.

Cholera is one.

More than likely the resistance developed during a period when a Founder Population lived in a rodent infested region ~ probably the Arctic ~ they would have made their way South over thousands of years, gradually blending into the local population.

3 posted on 10/16/2007 1:21:42 PM PDT by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

I’ve been looking at having a mitochondrial or Y-line DNA sequencing done for genealogy purposes. There seem to be quite a few labs out there but the price for a comprehensive analysis is a bit steep for me (US$250-$400). I’m sure there’s a university somewhere that’ll do it for much less money.


4 posted on 10/16/2007 1:31:05 PM PDT by james500
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

bump for later read


5 posted on 10/16/2007 1:33:38 PM PDT by skepsel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Is this the same thing as Triple Delta 32?? There was a documentary about a hemophiliac that had been given HIV pos blood and did not contract the disease. They figured out he was a person with this special allele.

This is my untrained opinion. The population about 8,000 years ago was mostly O blood, but O’s are succeptible to lots of those old time diseases and were eliminated from the reproductive pool and replaced by those with A or B blood. A’s are succeptible to cancer, but usually reproduced before the cancer got them. B’s not quite so succeptible.

I’m ready D’Adamo’s blood type and an particularily interested in secretor vs. non-secretor resistance to disease.

I wonder if they can tell blood type from the DNA they recovered.


6 posted on 10/16/2007 1:35:58 PM PDT by Battle Axe (Repent for the coming of the Lord is nigh!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Battle Axe; blam

Does one blood type get sicker than another, or is one type more apt to become sick?

 

http://www.hhmi.org/cgi-bin/askascientist/highlight.pl?kw=&file=answers%2Fimmunology%2Fans_034.html

 

Provided by Matthew McCarthy, HHMI medical fellow, Harvard Medical School, Boston

The sorting of blood according to certain cell-surface characteristics has helped scientists understand why in some cases a blood transfusion may save a life and in others it may cause death. The first blood group to be characterized was the ABO group in 1900, and this classification system remains one of the most medically relevant.

People are divided into one of four categories: A, B, AB, and O, depending on the structure of a particular sugar molecule on the surface of their red blood cells. This sugar is referred to as an antigen. People with type A blood have the A antigen, while people with type B blood have the B surface antigen. Those with type AB make both antigens, and type O people produce neither antigen. Someone with type A blood will reject type B blood via antibodies that recognize and destroy blood cells that have antigens of a different group.

Blood types are genetically inherited, but the environment can influence which blood types will be passed on. An example is seen with the Black Plague, which killed millions of people in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. The disease was caused by a bacterium that resembled type B blood and used this quality to evade destruction by the human immune system. As a result, people with type B blood died in far greater numbers than those of other blood types. By the 15th century, fatalities from the plague had decreased significantly as type B blood was systematically phased out in that part of the world.

Although certain blood types increase susceptibility to disease, others confer resistance, as seen with the sickle-cell mutation. Certain people have a type of blood that appears deflated and shaped like a sickle. People in this group are predisposed to sickle-cell anemia. At first glance, one might wonder why evolution has allowed for this blood type to be passed down through the generations if it can cause disease. The answer is that the deflated, sickle-shaped blood cells are actually protective against malaria. And the very people who possess this type of blood have ancestors who used to live in places where malaria was a major cause of death, such as central Africa.

More recently, scientists have noted that people with type O blood are more susceptible to the Norwalk virus, which causes diarrhea, and to Helicobacter pylori infection, which can cause ulcers. This finding has led scientists to ask, Why does type O blood continue to be passed from one generation to the next if it increases the risk of infection and disease?

Using the model of sickle-cell anemia, researchers hypothesized that type O blood could increase the risk to one infection (Norwalk virus) while conferring resistance to a more serious infection. In March 2005, a group in Hong Kong confirmed this hypothesis, showing that people with type O blood have a decreased risk of contracting SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a deadly disease that afflicted people in Asia, Canada, and the United States during an outbreak in 2002–2003.

Recent research has shown that people with type A blood have an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and pancreas. As you learn more about blood types and their role in disease, a great question to think about is, Why would evolution ever allow us to pass down blood types that increase our risk for cancer?

As you can see, a particular blood type may predispose you to one disease while simultaneously protecting you against another.

References

Cheng, Y., Cheng, G., Chui, C.H., Lau, F.Y., Chan, P.K., Ng, M.H., Sung, J.J., and Wong, R.S. ABO blood group and susceptibility to severe acute respiratory syndrome. JAMA 293 (12): 1450–51, 2005.

Hutson, A.M., Atmar, R.L., Graham, D.Y., and Estes, M.K. Norwalk virus infection and disease is associated with ABO histo-blood group type. Journal of Infectious Diseases 185 (9): 1335–37, 2002.

Williams, T.N., Mwangi, T.W., Wambua, S., Alexander, N.D., Kortok, M., Snow, R.W., and Marsh, K. Sickle cell trait and the risk of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and other childhood diseases. Journal of Infectious Diseases 192 (1): 178–86, 2005.

   

7 posted on 10/16/2007 1:58:15 PM PDT by CarrotAndStick (The articles posted by me needn't necessarily reflect my opinion.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Battle Axe
England is 1/2 A and 1/2 O, Scotland and Ireland are majority 0. What was the death toll during the plague among the various blood types?
8 posted on 10/16/2007 2:14:42 PM PDT by Little Bill (Welcome to the Newly Socialist State of New Hampshire)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Little Bill
"England is 1/2 A and 1/2 O, Scotland and Ireland are majority 0. What was the death toll during the plague among the various blood types?"

The people living behind Offa's Dyke have the highest concentration of 'O' type blood in the world.

9 posted on 10/16/2007 2:30:24 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: blam

Gloustershire, well to the East of Offa’s Dike, is my families stomping ground. I can see what you are saying, frogs or not, had a passing influence on the Cotswalds.


10 posted on 10/16/2007 2:45:54 PM PDT by Little Bill (Welcome to the Newly Socialist State of New Hampshire)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
"More than likely the resistance developed during a period when a Founder Population lived in a rodent infested region ~ probably the Arctic ~ they would have made their way South over thousands of years, gradually blending into the local population."

This article is a condensed version from the one in Archaeology Magazine. In the magazine version, it has this to say:

Most researchers now believe that the Black Death was the bubonic plague. Caused by the bacterium Yessinia pestis, it spread from rats to humans, usually by means of an infected flea.
But historical records show that the Black Death occurred in areas such as Iceland, where there were no rats. As a result, historian Susan Scott and Liverpool zoologist Chris Duncan suggest that Black Death was a viral hemorrhagic fever, akin to the Ebola Virus.
No one, however ,debates its lethal effect. In just three years, the Black Death swept across Europe, as far north as the Arctic Circle, claiming the lives of 40 percent of its inhabitants. And over the next three centuries, it struck repeatedly on the continent, filling graveyards whenever it appeared."

11 posted on 10/16/2007 2:46:02 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Little Bill

If cold weather increases the risk of crampt conditions that spread the Black Death, then type O must therefore give more resistance.


12 posted on 10/16/2007 2:52:25 PM PDT by tbw2 (Science fiction with real science - "Humanity's Edge" - on amazon.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: blam
Blam, Barbara Tuchman reported that the virulence of the Black Death declined as it moved North, and by the time it got to the Arctic the death rate was less than 10%.

Guess who lives in the Arctic where the only animals other than wolves, bear and reindeer are rodents. Well, I guess you don't need to guess eh!.

13 posted on 10/16/2007 2:57:17 PM PDT by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah; Pharmboy
"Well, I guess you don't need to guess eh!."

Ahem, some of our people, the Sa'ami.

I've announced before that my yDNA is R1b and that I'm Irish.
Well...as it turns out with further investigation, I have a DYS-390-23 which is Scandanavian - German. The people with a DYS-390-24 are the Irish.

My heritage just moved further north.

The British who have DYS-390-23, came in with one of these invaders, Danes-Saxons-Vikings. So....

14 posted on 10/16/2007 3:08:36 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Little Bill
http://www.dadamo.com/napharm/store3/template2/secretor.htm

An interesting read. Being a secretor or a non-secretor is just one of the name components of blood.

Will we get to a point where we can test a baby’s blood and determine how long he (she) will live and what they will die from?

15 posted on 10/16/2007 4:05:58 PM PDT by Battle Axe (Repent for the coming of the Lord is nigh!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah
Barbara Tuchman reported that the virulence of the Black Death declined as it moved North, and by the time it got to the Arctic the death rate was less than 10%.

Virulence as a measure of deaths, or deaths of infected persons?

16 posted on 10/16/2007 4:09:02 PM PDT by Battle Axe (Repent for the coming of the Lord is nigh!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: blam
Well, friend, I guess we part company there. I am a DYS390-24 making my origins a bit Irish (Y-chromosome-wise, anyway). The articles also say that DYS392-14 is particularly Irish...another one that I have.

What's your 392?

17 posted on 10/16/2007 4:09:30 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Democrats lie because they have to)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: james500

Try ancestry.com The prices seem to be a little better. The wife and I are considering it...we are big time into genealogy.


18 posted on 10/16/2007 4:11:08 PM PDT by bricklayer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: bricklayer

I think I’m going to end up going with ancestry.com.

...and speaking of ancestry:

Obama and VP Cheney are distant cousins
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1912137/posts


19 posted on 10/16/2007 4:26:25 PM PDT by james500
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
I thought your “haplogroup” was more indicative of what your ancestry is? I have a DYS390-24 yet I’m a J2 which is supposed to be from the Baltic area via the middle east.
20 posted on 10/16/2007 4:34:34 PM PDT by WackySam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: blam; martin_fierro; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks Blam.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.

The quarterly FReepathon is underway.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·


21 posted on 10/16/2007 5:03:01 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Profile updated Tuesday, October 16, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

So, I guess I’m both. I sponsored my mother’s brother and he is R1b1 with DYS-390-23. I also sponsored my brother who turns out is R1b1 with a DYS-390-24.


22 posted on 10/16/2007 5:31:49 PM PDT by Peanut Gallery ("An armed society is a polite society.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: blam

It’s a good thing these remains aren’t American Indian or we’d have to rebury the bones and burn all the research.


23 posted on 10/16/2007 5:38:25 PM PDT by sphinx
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

“how cool is that?”

Sit on it, Fonzie.


24 posted on 10/16/2007 5:58:43 PM PDT by dsc (There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. Edmund Burke)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

BTTT


25 posted on 10/16/2007 6:10:24 PM PDT by Cold Heart
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Battle Axe
Here's how much difference there was. Once the Black Death was more or less "over" tax authorities in Norway, which had been hit particularly hard, observed that the Sa'ami in the far North hadn't been subjected to the same death rate.

(Which means, death rate per population infected, or death rate of the population with cause unknown. Either definition works here.)

Consequently the tax authorities came up with a scheme of hiring Sa'ami to open up farms to the South where all the Norse people had died. They also had Sa'ami take over fishing boats, forests, etc.

The last farms made vacant by plague were opened up by Sa'ami settlers from the far North in the mid 1700s.

That was about 350 years worth of difference.

(Subtle nuances between different sorts of expressions of death rate are rather meaningless in this situation).

Roughly, the Sa'ami appear not to have been affected by the Black Death while the Norse were slaughtered like lambs in a Kosovan slaughter house the week before Ramadan.

Given that the Sa'ami have substantial and significant genetic differences from the Norse, and a myriad of epigenetic differences, you almost have to suspect the Sa'ami had a pre-existing genetic difference that protected them against Black Death whatever it might have been.

From the Sa'ami point of view the relocation back to the South was a mixed blessing. On the one hand the entire Sa'ami population was able to move firmly into the Iron age, but on the other they began to lose their distinct cultural identity (Little Red Man, Herb Woman, Reindeer Man), but not their genome ~ and it's only recently that it's been rediscovered.

26 posted on 10/16/2007 6:23:53 PM PDT by muawiyah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: bricklayer; james500

I too am into genealogy and have thought about this, but as you say, it is rather expensive.


27 posted on 10/16/2007 6:35:54 PM PDT by rdl6989
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Pharmboy
"What's your 392?"

DYS-392-13. What does 13 mean at 392?

28 posted on 10/16/2007 8:05:50 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: WackySam
"I thought your “haplogroup” was more indicative of what your ancestry is? I have a DYS390-24 yet I’m a J2 which is supposed to be from the Baltic area via the middle east."

I don't understand it either, lol. My neighbor is a yDNA I1a and has a DYS390-23 just like me and I'm an R1b.

29 posted on 10/16/2007 8:11:04 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: WackySam
J2 Haplogroup

"The J2 lineage originated in the northern portion of the Fertile Crescent where it later spread throughout central Asia, the Mediterranean, and south into India. As with other populations with Mediterranean ancestry this lineage is found within Jewish populations. Research note: Many people new to Genetic Genealogy think the J2 haplogroup is synonymous with having male Jewish ancestry. One should note that having a J2 haplogroup assignment does not necessarily indicate Jewish ancestry. The J2 haplogroup is far more ancient than the Jewish religion and is found in many lines with Mediterranean region ancient ancestry. Another relatively more recent mode for J2's entry into some parts of Europe from the Mediterranean areas could have been the Roman Legions and Roman settlements."

J2 Y-DNA Project

30 posted on 10/16/2007 8:21:05 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: blam
Thanks for the links-

BTW- My whole family on both sides has blond hair and blue eyes with the occasional redhead mixed in. I’ve had allot of fun telling them we’re probably Jewish and come from the middle east.

31 posted on 10/16/2007 8:27:40 PM PDT by WackySam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: WackySam
"BTW- My whole family on both sides has blond hair and blue eyes with the occasional redhead mixed in. I’ve had allot of fun telling them we’re probably Jewish and come from the middle east."

LOL. I know the feeling.

Imagine my family's suprise when I told them that my mother (A south Alabama farm girl) was a Sa'ami!!! They said, "A WHAT?" They started getting closer to understanding when I used the word 'Laplander' and reindeer herder. My mother is haplogroup 'V'...a Skolt Sa'ami.

Sa'ami Girl

32 posted on 10/16/2007 8:39:23 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: muawiyah

Were those movements reflected in the bygdeboks?


33 posted on 10/17/2007 9:23:32 AM PDT by GoLightly
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: james500; bricklayer
If you do go with Ancestry.com, I strongly suggest you join a surname project when you order. It can save you some money if you do so. We had two different groups of people tested in my family before we finally figured out that it would have been cheaper to join the project before being tested. Also, it will be easier to compare your results with others of your surname when you're already in their system.

Also, if you think you may eventually be wanting to go as high as a 37 marker test, it's cheaper to do it initially than upgrading later. I've learned some of these things the more expensive way!

34 posted on 10/17/2007 3:38:36 PM PDT by Jessarah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson