CT scans of Egyptian mummies, some as much as 3,500 years old, shows evidence of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which is normally thought of as a disease caused by modern lifestyles, researchers said today. "Atherosclerosis is ubiquitous among modern-day humans and, despite differences in ancient and modern lifestyles, we found that it was rather common in ancient Egyptians of high socioeconomic status," said co-author Dr. Gregory Thomas, a cardiologist at UC Irvine. "The findings suggest that we may have to look beyond modern risk factors to fully understand the disease."
"Perhaps atherosclerosis is part of being human, as we are observing the footprint of the same disease process in people who lived thousands of years ago," added co-author Dr. Michael I. Miyamoto, a cardiologist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine."The possibility that humans throughout time might share the same predisposition to the development of certain afflictions was poignantly illustrated to us" by the study, presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando.
The study was conceived by Thomas after he read the nameplate of Pharoah Merenptah in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cario. The nameplate says that, when he died at age 60 in 1203 BC, Merenptah was plagued by atherosclerosis, arthritis and dental decay. Because atherosclerosis is characterized by calcium in plaques, Thomas reasoned that some evidence of the disease might still be present even after so long. He organized a team of cardiologists and Egyptologists who scanned a series of 20 mummies in the Egyptian Museum during the week of Feb. 8, 2009. The scanning was performed on a Siemens machine permanently installed at the museum.
The abstract for the official report is available at:
The Journal of the American Medical Association