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Something Old, Something New—Computed Tomography Studies of the Cardiovascular System in Ancient Egyptian Mummies

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... His nameplate declares that he had suffered from arteriosclerosis. This provocative description stimulated the development of a team in February 2008, eventually named Horus, which sought to determine if the nameplate was indeed correct [10]. Not being aware of Smith's [8] and Shattock's [9] work from a century ago, we were skeptical. ...
Article
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Computed tomographic findings of atherosclerosis in the ancient cultures of Egypt, Peru, the American Southwest and the Aleutian Islands challenge our understanding of the fundamental causes of atherosclerosis. Could these findings be true? Is so, what traditional risk factors might be present in these cultures that could explain this apparent paradox? The recent computed tomographic findings are consistent with multiple autopsy studies dating as far back as 1852 that demonstrate calcific atherosclerosis in ancient Egyptians and Peruvians. A nontraditional cause of atherosclerosis that could explain this burden of atherosclerosis is the microbial and parasitic inflammatory burden likely to be present in ancient cultures inherently lacking modern hygiene and antimicrobials. Patients with chronic systemic inflammatory diseases of today, including systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and human immunodeficiency virus infection, experience premature atherosclerosis and coronary events. Might the chronic inflammatory load of ancient times secondary to infection have resulted in atherosclerosis? Smoke inhalation from the use of open fires for daily cooking and illumination represents another potential cause. Undiscovered risk factors could also have been present, potential causes that technologically cannot currently be measured in our serum or other tissue. A synthesis of these findings suggests that a gene-environmental interplay is causal for atherosclerosis. That is, humans have an inherent genetic susceptibility to atherosclerosis, whereas the speed and severity of its development are secondary to known and potentially unknown environmental factors.
... Non obvious fractures, cervical spine appears intact. Under the chin, in front of the neck, the ancient Egyptian did not remove the brain from the skull, but they leave the brain remains, in addition to some remains of resins in order to keep the brain [7] It has been proven through the visual inspection of salt crystals on the mummy face, as well as CT scanning proved to be salt crystals at the bottom of the face between the skin of the face and skull bones, fig. (3-a, b). ...
... The HORUS Study is an ongoing investigation into the health of ancient Egyptians using CT scanning as the principle tool. The details of mummy selection and CT scan approach have been described elsewhere (Allam, 2009(Allam, , 2010(Allam, , 2011Thompson, 2013). In brief, the study and its continuation were approved on three occasions by vote of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. ...
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CT scanning of ancient human remains has the potential to provide insights into health and diseases. While Egyptian mummies have undergone CT scans in prior studies, a systematic survey of the orthopedic conditions afflicting a group of these ancient individuals has never been carried out. We performed whole body CT scanning on 52 ancient Egyptian mummies using technique comparable to that of medical imaging. All of the large joints and the spine were systematically examined and osteoarthritic (OA) changes were scored 0-4 using Kellgren and Lawrence classification. The cruciate ligaments and menisci could be identified frequently. There were much more frequent OA changes in the spine (25 mummies) than in the large joints (15 cases of acromioclavicular and/or glenohumeral joint OA changes, five involvement of the ankle, one in the elbow, four in the knee, and one in the hip). There were six cases of scoliosis. Individual mummies had the following conditions: juvenile aseptic necrosis of the hip (Perthes disease), stage 4 osteochondritis dissecans of the knee, vertebral compression fracture, lateral patella-femoral joint hyper-compression syndrome, severe rotator cuff arthropathy, rotator cuff impingement, hip pincer impingement, and combined fracture of the greater trochantor and vertebral bodies indicating obvious traumatic injury. This report includes the most ancient discovery of several of these syndromes. Ancient Egyptians often suffered painful orthopedic conditions. The high frequency of scoliosis merits further study. The pattern of degenerative changes in the spine and joints may offer insights into activity levels of these people. Anat Rec, 298:1036-1046, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
... His nameplate declares that he had suffered from arteriosclerosis. This provocative description stimulated the development of a team in February 2008, eventually named Horus, which sought to determine if the nameplate was indeed correct [10]. Not being aware of Smith's [8] and Shattock's [9] work from a century ago, we were skeptical. ...
Article
Full-text available
Computed tomographic findings of atherosclerosis in the ancient cultures of Egypt, Peru, the American Southwest and the Aleutian Islands challenge our understanding of the fundamental causes of atherosclerosis. Could these findings be true? Is so, what traditional risk factors might be present in these cultures that could explain this apparent paradox? The recent computed tomographic findings are consistent with multiple autopsy studies dating as far back as 1852 that demonstrate calcific atherosclerosis in ancient Egyptians and Peruvians. A nontraditional cause of atherosclerosis that could explain this burden of atherosclerosis is the microbial and parasitic inflammatory burden likely to be present in ancient cultures inherently lacking modern hygiene and antimicrobials. Patients with chronic systemic inflammatory diseases of today, including systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and human immunodeficiency virus infection, experience premature atherosclerosis and coronary events. Might the chronic inflammatory load of ancient times secondary to infection have resulted in atherosclerosis? Smoke inhalation from the use of open fires for daily cooking and illumination represents another potential cause. Undiscovered risk factors could also have been present, potential causes that technologically cannot currently be measured in our serum or other tissue. A synthesis of these findings suggests that a gene-environmental interplay is causal for atherosclerosis. That is, humans have an inherent genetic susceptibility to atherosclerosis, whereas the speed and severity of its development are secondary to known and potentially unknown environmental factors.
... Indeed, the presence of calcified formations may correspond to the development of atherosclerosis (intimal localization), medial calcification (medial localization), or both. The ambiguity of this finding has been shown in previous studies of historical mummified material and discussed in that context [1][2][3][4][5], but it also exists in current forensic practice. Topographical data may be useful for making a differential diagnosis; for example, medial calcification predominates in the abdominal aorta, the aortic arch, the popliteal and peroneal arteries, the superficial femoral artery, and the anterior tibial and iliac arteries. ...
... His depiction as falcon made of gold serves as a breastplate for many royal Egyptian mummies (Fig. 1). Using a Siemens Emotion 6 slice CT scanner (Florsheim, Germany) on site at the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt in February 2009, the initial Horus team imaged 20 mummies and was provided the CT scans of two others101112. The CT scanner was initially donated by Siemens and the National Geographic Society to image Pharaoh Tutankhamun. ...
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Case reports from Johan Czermak, Marc Ruffer, and others a century or more ago demonstrated ancient Egyptians had atherosclerosis three millennia ago. The Horus study team extended their findings, demonstrating that atherosclerosis was prevalent among 76 ancient Egyptian mummies and among 61 mummies from each of the ancient cultures of Peru, the American Southwest, and the Aleutian Islands. These findings challenge the assumption that atherosclerosis is a modern disease caused by present day risk factors. An extensive autopsy of an ancient Egyptian teenage male weaver named Nakht found that he was infected with four parasites: Schistosoma haematobium, Taenia species, Trichinella spiralis, and Plasmodium falciparum. Modern day patients with chronic inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and human immunodeficiency virus experience premature atherosclerosis. Could the burden of chronic inflammatory disease have been a risk factor for atherosclerosis in these ancient cultures? The prevalence of atherosclerosis in four diverse ancient cultures is consistent with atherosclerosis being fundamental to aging. The impact of risk factors in modern times, and potentially in ancient times, suggests a strong gene-environmental interplay: human genes provide a vulnerability to atherosclerosis, the environment determines when and if atherosclerosis becomes manifest clinically.
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Objective: Computed tomography (CT)-based analyses of mummies have been performed since the 1970s but, until now, no systematic summary of PubMed®-published data has been performed. The aim was to perform a systematic review of previously published cases and summarize artificial changes and detectable paleopathologies. Materials and methods: Data collection from publications on CT analyses of mummies from ancient Egypt until the Greco-Roman period (up to 700 ad) from the PubMed® database (1973-2013) and descriptive data analysis. Results: Forty-seven publications on CT-based analyses have been identified, which reported on 189 mummies. Commonly reported artificial changes were destruction of the nasal bone and left-sided lateral abdominal incision for removal of inner organs. Dental and jaw pathologies (n = 42), chronic degenerative changes of skeletal bones (n = 39), and arteriosclerosis (n = 36) were reported in a subfraction of cases while traumatic fractures (n = 16) and other diseases were less often identified. The cause of death was rarely detectable by CT, but a cut through the throat, arrowheads, and bone fracture could be verified by CT. Conclusion: Standards in documentation of CT devices have changed over the past 40 years, and insufficient documentation limits the interpretation of findings. In ancient Egyptian mummies, most organs have been removed during the mummification process while teeth and jaws are often preserved. Dental pathologies were frequent in ancient Egypt and can indicate personal circumstances and diet. The cause of death is rarely verifiable, but CT scan could be the clue. Although well known in Egyptian mummies, artificial changes may lead to misinterpretation of CT findings.
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In the present study on a newly discovered 17th century Korean mummy, computed tomography (CT) revealed multiple aortic calcifications within the aortic wall that were indicative of ancient atherosclerosis. The CT-based findings were confirmed by our subsequent post-factum dissection, which exhibited possible signs of the disease including ulcerated plaques, ruptured hemorrhages, and intimal thickening where the necrotic core was covered by the fibrous cap. These findings are strong indicators that the mummy suffered from aortic atherosclerosis during her lifetime. The present study is a good example of how CT images of vascular calcifications can be a useful diagnostic tool in forming at least preliminary diagnoses of ancient atherosclerosis.
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Ultrafast computed tomography was used to detect and quantify coronary artery calcium levels in 584 subjects (mean age 48 +/- 10 years) with (n = 109) and without (n = 475) clinical coronary artery disease. Fifty patients who underwent fluoroscopy and ultrafast computed tomography were also evaluated. Twenty contiguous 3 mm slices were obtained of the proximal coronary arteries. Total calcium scores were calculated based on the number, areas and peak Hounsfield computed tomographic numbers of the calcific lesions detected. In 88 subjects scored by two readers independently, interobserver agreement was excellent with identical total scores obtained in 70. Ultrafast computed tomography was more sensitive than fluoroscopy, detecting coronary calcium in 90% versus 52% of patients. There were significant differences (p less than 0.0001) in mean total calcium scores for those with versus those without clinical coronary artery disease by decade: 5 versus 132, age 30 to 39 years; 27 versus 291, age 40 to 49 years; 83 versus 462, age 50 to 59 years; and 187 versus 786, age 60 to 69 years. Sensitivity, specificity and predictive values for clinical coronary artery disease were calculated for several total calcium scores in each decade. For age groups 40 to 49 and 50 to 59 years, a total score of 50 resulted in a sensitivity of 71% and 74% and a specificity of 91% and 70%, respectively. For age group 60 to 69 years, a total score of 300 gave a sensitivity of 74% and a specificity of 81%. The negative predictive value of a 0 score was 98%, 94% and 100% for age groups 40 to 49, 50 to 59 and 60 to 69 years, respectively. Ultrafast computed tomography is an excellent tool for detecting and quantifying coronary artery calcium.
Ruffer MA, Studies in the Paleopathology of Egypt, General Books Available at: www.general-books.net
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