Shark Bites Whale

Phys.Org mentions an interesting article published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. The article concerns a fragment of a whale rib, dating to the Pliocene, that shows evidence of a shark bite. In this case the rib also displays evidence of having survived the attack. From Phys.Org: Continue reading

Rickets, Neanderthals, And Lubenow: Part Two

In the previous post in this series I looked at vitamin D metabolism and the effects of vitamin D deficiency on the skeleton. So, lets talk about Lubenow and Neanderthals. Lubenows discussion of Neanderthals and rickets occurs in chapter 14. He begins the chapter by invoking the Genesis flood to explain the ice ages, which only lasted, according to Lubenow, for 700 years (give or take). Continue reading

Rickets, Neanderthals, And Lubenow: Part One

I have mentioned previously that I was reading Lubenow’s Bones of Contention. In this post I would like to focus on Lubenow’s understanding of rickets and Neanderthal morphology. In order to discuss that I first need to discuss vitamin D deficiency Continue reading

Paleopathology of King Tutankhamun And His Relatives

As mentioned in a previous post Jama has published the results of some interesting research on Tutankhamun and his family.
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Begging For An Article

Can some one send me a copy of the following article:

Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family
Zahi Hawass, PhD; Yehia Z. Gad, MD; Somaia Ismail, PhD; Rabab Khairat, MSc; Dina Fathalla, MSc; Naglaa Hasan, MSc; Amal Ahmed, BPharm; Hisham Elleithy, MA; Markus Ball, MSc; Fawzi Gaballah, PhD; Sally Wasef, MSc; Mohamed Fateen, MD; Hany Amer, PhD; Paul Gostner, MD; Ashraf Selim, MD; Albert Zink, PhD; Carsten M. Pusch, PhD
JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647.

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Global History of Health Project

I know I have mentioned this before (unfortunately, I can’t find where) but Richard Steckel and Jerome Rose (among others) are working on a fascinating project called the Global History of Health Project. One of the reasons that I brought this up is because the Jewish World review has a fascinating overview of the project: Continue reading

Tuesday Paleopathology Blogging: Did STW 431 Have Brucellosis?

I’ve been meaning to mention this ever since the article was published in PLoS One.

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by any of several bacilli. It is primarily found in livestock such as cows, horses, pigs, and goats. It has also been found in wild animals such as zebra, eland, waterbuck, and impala. It is primarily transmitted to humans via infected dairy products and meat. In humans the disease appears as a chronic infection of the lungs and recurring fevers. Males are affected more than females. The primary center of skeletal involvement occurs in the spine. Ortner and Putschar define the lesion involved as follows:

The lesion is a lytic cavitation. Grossly and on X-ray, it frequently can be seen penetrating the vertebral end-plate and extending through the nucleus pulposus of the disc into the next vertebral body … The cancellous bone within the focus is destroyed without formation of significant sequestra. The cortex also may be perforated, leading to parosteal abscesses. There is usually very little, if any, reactive bone formation except in the healing phase … In contrast to tuberculosis, which it resembles in several ways, complete collapse of vertebrae with gibbus formation is usually not observed … and paravertebral abscess is rare …

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The (PTC) Bitter Taste Test: Does it Apply To Neanderthals?

The PTC test is well known to the point of annoyance. Practically, every biological anthropology class I ever had mentioned it, as did a number of the cultural anthropology. A new article in Biology Letters – requires a subscription puts a new spin on the question.

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Oldest Case of Paralysis in the Archaeological Record?

The Discovery Channel has an interesting story on what is, possibly, the oldest cast of human paralysis in the archaeological record. The skeleton dates to the Neolithic (circa 3,500-4,000 years ago) and was discovered in Vietnam – about 62 miles south of Hanoi. Continue reading

Interesting Osteology and Paleopathology Related News

Science Daily mentions a number of interesting items related to Osteology and Paleopatholgy.

First, Gene Vital To Early Embryonic Cells Forming A Normal Heart And Skull:

In a study posted online June 15 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team at Cincinnati Children’s reports that too little of the gene/protein SHP2 interferes with the normal developmental activity of what are called neural crest cells. These cells, which occur very early in embryonic development, migrate to specific regions of the embryo. While doing so, the cells are supposed to differentiate and give rise to certain nerve tissues, craniofacial bones or smooth muscle tissue of the heart.

Second, Relationship Between Bone Density And Erosion In Arthritis:

Led by Daniel H. Solomon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston , the study involved 163 postmenopausal women with RA, none of whom were taking osteoporosis medications. Participants underwent bone density scans of the hip and spine, as well as X-rays of the hand to determine if they had bone erosions.

The results showed that hip bone mineral density (BMD) correlated with bone erosion, but the relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for clinical factors such as age, BMI and use of oral glucocorticoids used to treat RA. The relationship did appear stronger, however, in patients with early RA. “Our findings suggest that the relationship between focal erosions and generalized osteoporosis is complicated and modified by many aspects of RA and other factors,” the authors state. They point out that with longer disease duration, other variables such as the use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), disease activity and markers of inflammation may dilute the relationship between focal erosions and hip BMD.

Third, and this relates to RA as well, Genes That Regulate Human Circadian Rhythm Significantly Disturbed In Individuals With Arthritis:

Professor Shunichi Shiozawa of Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine and University Hospital, Japan, who led the research said: “Our study has shown that arthritis interferes with the genetics behind an individual’s circadian rhythm and, specifically, that certain body clock genes may play a part in the activation of TNF-alpha, a signaling molecule that has an important role in the inflammation commonly seen in a number of rheumatologic conditions. The
identification of this curious pathway may help to explain the 24-hour symptom cycle seen by many patients who experience worsening of joint pain and stiffness in the mornings, and lead to further research into new approaches for improving daily quality of life.”

I’ll have more to say about these later.

Update 1: It is very easy, when looking at paleopathology, to focus on things like periostitis, or eburnation, or some such. Take rheumatoid arthritis, for example. RA is an autoimmune disease that affects multiple systems. A number of factors can impact the disease, such as climate, diets high in protein and unsaturated fats, and heredity. RA primarily affects the synovial joints mainly in the hands, feet, wrist, elbows, and knees. The synovial membrane is affected first and eventually destroyed, during this process the underlying bones are subject to erosion at the joint edges and surfaces. This can lead to, among other things, partial dislocation. Some of these changes can be identified in the archaeological record, but they can be mistaken for other types of disease. The linkage of RA and hip bone mineral density is certainly interesting as RA doesn’t commonly affect the hip. The fact that RA also seems to interfere with the genetics behind the circadian rhythm is also interesting as it can lead to increased susceptibility to other insults.

The SHP2 study is interesting because it sheds some light on cranial formation and some of the things that can send it astray. The point in mentioning these three studies is that being familiar with these kinds of issues can lend power to our ability to understand the patterning of diseases in the past.